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New program gives Utahns tools to help those struggling with mental health

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The training includes videos with people sharing their stories and mental health experts on the platform to explain how to recognize warning signs and what resources exist in Utah.

A new state program that gives Utah residents the tools to help someone they know struggling with thoughts of suicide has proven successful and will be expanded this year.

May is National Mental Health Awareness month and the administration of a relatively new state program, called Live On, which aims to help those suffering with their mental health is encouraged by the first-of-its-kind program.

Alison Foust is Live On’s suicide prevention program administrator. She explains it’s a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and many private donors who felt suicide prevention is something that should be talked about.

“They all came to the table and funded this campaign. But essentially, this is a campaign that teaches people warning signs for suicide, what to look for, and then how to have those really hard conversations once you recognize that somebody might be struggling,” Foust said.

The program launched shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in May of 2020. She said the Live On Playbook was created when someone helped save a friend who was thinking of ending their own life.

“And his quote was, 'There's no playbook for this.' I had no idea what to do,” she said. “All I did was love this person and just be there with them. And so Live On Utah really used that story to drive the idea of the playbook and said, why isn't there a playbook? We need to teach people what to do in these situations.”

Then in September 2022, Live On launched its training via social media.

“We launched the world's first suicide prevention training, delivered entirely through Instagram for free,” Foust said. “So, if you follow Live On Utah on Instagram, in less than an hour, you can become a suicide prevention ambassador and learn the warning signs for suicide and how to lead others to help.”

The training includes videos with people sharing their stories and mental health experts on the platform to explain how to recognize warning signs and what resources exist in Utah.

“We say the word course, but it's honestly like you're flipping through an Instagram post. So, it's very unique and very user friendly," she said. "You can take each lesson in less than 10 minutes.”

In addition to educating people on suicide prevention, Foust said they will focus on the importance of locking up firearms and prescription medications to help reduce suicide risk.

Half of the suicides in Utah involve firearms and 85% of all firearm deaths in Utah are suicides.

“So those are significant statistics that tell us if we can just temporarily remove these firearms from people when they are struggling with thoughts of suicide, we can potentially save a life,” she said. “And this isn't Live On doing this. This is Live On teaching friends and family members to do this with their own networks. This doesn't have to be a government mandate. This can be something we all do together in our personal lives.”

The program is being rolled out this year to include a Spanish version of the playbook as well as one for members of the military.

If anyone is struggling with thoughts of self-harm, they can call 988 24/7 and speak to a trained crisis worker.