The recent death of a Utah County girl sparked debate after her suicide led to murder charges, prompting legislation that re-defines assisting in suicide as manslaughter.
Tyerell Przybycien faces murder charges in the death of 16-year-old Jchandra Brown. Court records say Przybycien purchased physical materials and persuaded Brown to commit suicide in Payson Canyon in May.
The case prompted Rep. Michael K. McKell, R-Spanish Fork, to introduce legislation, HB86, that would make aiding another person in committing suicide an offense.
“As a state we had to take action,” McKell said of the case. “We are one of six states without anti-suicide legislation. We simply want to add to the toolbox that legislators can use to protect life.”
While the purpose of HB86 is to provide justice in cases where suicide turns to murder, McKell hopes its passage will lead to future anti-suicide legislation.
For suicide prevention advocate and former Miss Utah 2016 Lauren Wilson, HB86 serves as an affirmation that life should be protected.
“So many of the issues of suicide arise from lack of education and lack of communication,” Wilson said. “Suicide is a taboo topic, but we need to be addressing it in all its different forms so that people can be aware, and be responsible.”
Utah’s suicide rates are remarkably high among teens. The Utah Department of Health has confirmed a 141 percent increase in youth suicide rates among teens from 2011 to 2015.
Legislators and advocates alike hope the bill would counter media sources that have glamorized suicide and assisted death.
“Suicide doesn’t discriminate,” Wilson said. “It can happen to anyone, so we need to be educated and we need to be responsible.”