Church, community advocate for suicide prevention

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Press release (https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/utah-governor-task-force-teen-suicide)
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addressing the media at a press conference announcing Governor Gary Herbert’s Teen Suicide Prevention Task Force. Elder Rasband joined other community and religious leaders to develop a plan to combat the teen suicide crisis in Utah. (Mormon Newsroom)

In 2016, Utah had the fifth highest rate of teen suicide in the nation. Utah’s rates were increasing nearly four times faster than the national average.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — with Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve — has since made an effort to combat the suicide crisis by partnering with community leaders for a series of initiatives.

Gov. Gary Herbert created a special task force of influential people in the state of Utah to develop solutions to the teen suicide issue on Jan. 17. Elder Rasband joined the task force to represent the church.

“We must all come together to face this issue,” Elder Rasband told the Deseret News. “There is more power in a chorus than in a single voice.”

Two days after the task force was created, the church sent a letter to all church leadership outlining existing resources to help with suicide prevention. The church’s suicide prevention website was also updated to include resources to help those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, who want to help and who have lost a loved one.

After roughly a month of deliberation, the task force presented a list of recommendations to Gov. Herbert on Feb. 20 at the Utah Capitol building. A dove release accompanied the presentation of the recommendations, representing hope for people afflicted with mental illness.

On April 24, Gov. Herbert signed several bills into law which resulted from the task force. Elder Rasband presented a $150,000 check on behalf of the church to the governor’s suicide prevention fund at the signing, according to Mormon Newsroom.

“We want to raise awareness regarding the governor’s suicide prevention fund, and we hope this will prompt others who feel a desire to support these efforts,” Elder Rasband said in a news release.

The church also released several videos in early July to shed more light on suicide and give hope to those struggling. In these videos, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve encourages others to reach out in love to those struggling with suicidal thoughts.

The videos also include Elder Renlund clarifying doctrinal questions, giving hope to those who have lost loved ones. “The old sectarian notion that suicide is a sin and that someone who commits suicide is banished to hell forever is totally false,” he said.

On Sept. 7, the church asked its members across the nation to come together and pray for those who have had their lives affected by suicide as part of a National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Life, according to a news release.

Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. of the Quorum of the Seventy was present at the Utah Capitol to promote the weekend of prayer and show the church’s continued dedication to addressing suicide.

“I pray for those who feel marginalized and alone that they will know they are our brothers and sisters,” Elder Curtis said at the event. “Their struggle is our struggle.”

Most recently, on Sept. 24, the church released a new video titled “Choose to Stay” which follows the story of a teenage boy contemplating suicide. Instead of succumbing to pain and stress, the boy reaches out to loved ones, prayer and medical professionals to find peace. 

For those seeking help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK. Additional suicide prevention resources are available at suicide.lds.org.

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