Life’s Worth Living Foundation, a Tooele County based group, wants people experiencing thoughts of suicide and depression to know there is hope and that everyone matters.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and Suicide Prevention Week was Sept. 6 through 12.
Preventing suicide in our county is very important, according to Jon Gossett, founder of the Life’s Worth Living Foundation.
“On the high end, the county has seen approximately 24 suicides in one year,” he said “Thankfully, our numbers went way down last year. Utah sees about two suicides a day. They say that every year we lose about 800,000 people to suicide. There is an attempt every 40 seconds and we lose someone about every 12 minutes. We have been really blessed this year to see our numbers go down.”
2014 was the worst year on record for suicide in the Tooele County, according to statistics.
That year, Tooele County was fourth in Utah for the number of deaths by suicide.
“It was a bad year,” Gossett said. “I decided that there was something that needed to be done and if not me, then who?”
Today, Tooele County sits at the 21st lowest county for deaths by suicide out of the 29 counties in Utah.
“We have seen more of a drop than any other county in Utah. I think that had to do with all of the different prevention people working together hand in hand,” Gossett said. We have Life’s Worth Living, Communities that Care, the school district, and the health department. That’s the only way we have been able to make a measurable difference. It’s been a joint effort.”
The Life’s Worth Living Foundation created a three-fold mission to prevent suicide.
Their first goal is to raise awareness. The second is to educate individuals about suicide and the third is to actually prevent suicides.
“We can’t prevent suicides without talking about the problem,” Gossett said.
The foundation hosts two-hour QPR training classes, which stands for question, persuade, and refer.
They also train educators in the school district, and are planning on educating employers and employees in the workplace soon.
Each spring, the foundation hosts a “Walk to Wendover” where individuals from the foundation as well as people who’ve experienced suicide or lost a loved one walk 100 miles from Tooele City Hall to Wendover.
Each December, the foundation puts on their “It’s a Wonderful Life festival” at the Deseret Peak Complex.
The foundation also created a suicide support group for people who have lost a loved one to suicide or are having thoughts of suicide.
Currently, the group has been meeting outdoors and via Zoom, because of COVID-19.
“This is a monthly support group,” said Gossett. “It gives people a place to heal and gives them a place to tell their story.”
Since the pandemic began, the group hasn’t been able to be around people and socialize, so they have created a weekly, hour long, podcast interviewing people who have experiences with suicide.
According to Gossett, there have been over 10,000 listeners from 20 different countries.
The podcasts are available on any podcast platform.
During the pandemic, many parts of the country have seen a rise in suicide rates. However, Tooele County has not.
“We have been blessed,” Gossett said. “We have had far less suicides than the rest of the country. In the month of July, California came out and said that in the previous four weeks they had had more suicide attempts than in the previous year. That is 12 times the ordinary, but Utah and Tooele County have not seen a change. That’s not to say that people are not struggling during the pandemic, though. We are social creatures and we like to interact with one another. We have been very blessed in our numbers.”
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied, plus others — have been feeling isolated, as well as elderly individuals, according to Gossett.
The senior community is also really struggling, according to Gossett.
“They are shut in their houses and are totally isolated,” he said. “This is a group of people that already feel like they are a burden and it is not true! It’s important for us to check on that population, but keep six feet away and wear a mask. It’s really the key to everything, letting people know they matter and that you care. We can give these groups hope. You have to feel like you matter and you are noticed.”
Gossett recommends that people suffering from thoughts of suicide or thoughts that scare them, should find someone they trust and tell that perosn what they are going through.
“This could be a friend, religious leader, a member of Life’s Worth Living Foundation, or family member,” Gossett said. “Thoughts of suicide get much worse if you keep it to yourself.”
The suicide life line at 1-800-273-8255 is also available with people to listen, he said.
“Someone will answer that phone 24/7 and they are a licensed clinical social worker,” Gossett said. “They are going to be there to give you tools to try and help you realize that the world would not be better off without you. This lifeline is irreplaceable.”
Students can download the SafeUt app for free, Gossett said.
Students experiencing thoughts of suicide can sign up for the app and push a button that connects them with a clinical social worker by text or phone quickly.
National leaders are working on setting up a three-digit phone number that individuals experiencing thoughts of suicide can call.
“It will be kind of like dialing 911,” stated Gossett. “It may take up to three years to become fully operational. Until then, the lifeline and SafeUt are the two best places to visit.”
Lastly, Gossett has a message for everyone.
“We need to lift each other up and not tear each other down. We want to make sure everyone knows someone is there for them.”