Two New Reports Highlight Trends in Utah Adolescent Health: Mental Health and Suicide Remain Top Concerns

The Utah Department of Health issued a new Adolescent Health Report on October 10, 2018, which observed the following increased mental health concerns among youth:

  • 27.3% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless.
  • 20.6% of students reported psychological distress.
  • 18.1% of students seriously considered suicide.
  • 14.3% of students made a suicide plan.
  • 7.7% of students made one or more suicide attempts.

Percentages for all of these indicators are highest among females in Utah. 10th and 12th grade students were significantly more likely to have reported feeling sad or hopeless, to have reported psychological distress, and seriously considered suicide.

Another shocking trend is the increase in bullying among youth, particularly through the use of electronic devices.

27.9% of students reported being bullied at school. Females and students in lower grades were significantly more likely to be bullied than males and students in higher grades.
27.2% of students reported being bullied over the Internet, by email, or by someone with a cell phone. Students in 8th grade were significantly more likely to be electronically bullied than 12th grade students.  Females reported 50% more electronic bullying than males.

In addition, on October 3, 2018, the Utah Foundation issued a report titled, Getting to Tomorrow: Addressing Suicide in Utah and the Mountain States, which found a startling increase in Utah suicide rates, particularly among males (three times the rate of females).  The Key Findings include:

  • Since the early 2000s, suicide rates have been on the rise in Utah, in the Mountain States and nationally.
  • The teen suicide rate in Utah is DOUBLE the national rate, and has increased more than five times faster than the national average.
  • Various factors may relate to the higher suicide rates found in the Mountain States. Among them, high average elevation stands out as consistent among states with high suicide rates.
  • Within the state, the highest suicide rates appear to cluster in five contiguous Utah counties.
  • The Utah counties with the highest suicide rates also tend to have high opioid prescription rates.
  • Suicide deaths are a predominantly male phenomenon (boys accounted for 77.4% of suicide deaths; access to unlocked firearms is also noted)
  • In Utah, the highest suicide rates by far are among working age adults. Unfortunately, in Utah, unlike other states, there is no legislation in place that requires colleges and universities to provide mental health or suicide prevention training to students.
  • Both public schools and higher education institutions have heightened opportunities to promote mental health, offer suicide prevention training and provide intervention. However, efforts vary greatly among institutions.
  • Ultimately, intervention requires individualized care and thus the promotion of access to highly trained mental health professionals.

The report notes that not surprisingly, people who have a history of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression, are at particular risk for suicide. The mental health risks are exacerbated when there is a lack of access to mental health treatment or an unwillingness to seek treatment.

The need for increased access to mental health services across all age groups is noted throughout the report.  A college student in Utah must wait 4-8 weeks to get an appointment at a counseling center – this despite a increase in students seeking counseling for mental health concerns. Utah has lower than the national average when it comes to having enough mental health professionals to serve the population. In 2018, Utah passed legislation to require state Medicaid providers and private insurance carriers (that cover mental health services) to cover and reimburse providers for telepsychiatric appointments.

 

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2018-11-04T09:14:43+00:00

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