Lt. Governor Spencer Cox shares personal stories on suicide, hopes to start conversation

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SALT LAKE CITY - A conversation is finally starting to happen about suicide in Utah, according to Utah Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox.

Cox is part of a Suicide Prevention Task Force and recently started talking to his own children about a touchy topic.

“I went home and went right down and had a conversation with my kids, and just this morning I had another conversation with my kids,” said Cox.

Then he recently posted an article on social media where he conveys his own struggle as a middle school student with suicidal thoughts. He also tweeted it out on Sunday.

"Then middle school happened. The first week, these strapping young boys grabbed me in the hall and stuffed me in a garbage can. I’m sure it was fun for them,” Cox reminisced, adding that, “I got glasses about that time — not the nice ones like people wear today. These were big, round and thick, and I was really little, and kind of a nerd.”

At times, Cox said he thought about “what it would be like if I wasn’t here anymore, and how much better off everyone would be if I wasn’t here.”
That led to thoughts about how he would do it.

But Cox said he never got to the place where he attempted suicide. And he never spoke about it either.

“I shared some of my own experiences as a teenager, where I had gone through a dark time and had my own suicidal thoughts. We just need to talk about it more and I have had a couple experiences personally, where I have seen that happening and talking about it can actually change lives," Cox said.

He also made a decision in the last few weeks to always start a conversation with Utah’s youth about suicide prevention- whenever he has an audience of young people:

“It’s not easy to do the first time. It’s awkward. And we are kind of ashamed of that-- we don’t talk about it. We sweep it under the rug historically, and we can’t do that anymore. We need to talk about it like we would the flu or a cold or a broken bone-- just to have that conversation, it’s part of the human experience. We all get sad. We all get lonely. We all go through a hard time, some are worse than others. We need to have those conversations about mental health, mental illness, and specifically about suicide; and what I found is the more you talk about it, the easier it gets.”

Cox also shared a personal experience he had after he made that decision to discuss suicide prevention with the youth. A group of young people were at the capitol to learn about how the government works and Cox addressed suicide prevention with those students.

“Just last week I had a conversation and a girl said ‘Can I give you a hug?’ and I said ‘Sure,’ and she whispered in my ear, this 13-year-old girl and said, ‘I have been thinking about it (suicide) and I needed to hear this today,’" Cox said. "And that just hit me and I thought ‘if she is, how many others are? And how many lives can we save just by having this conversation?"

Recent statistics from Utah’s Suicide Prevention Task Force found 17 percent of Utah’s youth think about suicide. That equates to five or six students out of every 30 students in one classroom. Utah also holds a suicide rate of 140 percent over the national average.

Lt. Cox pushed the app called “SafeUT.” It’s an app people can use to get help with thoughts of suicide. People can also use it to alert authorities about threats at school, or at home. IT provides professional help for those using for mental illness and or suicidal behavior.

To download the app, visit:
https://safeut.med.utah.edu/