A recent story reported the eviction of a woman expressing suicidal thoughts from the Ventana Student Housing in Orem. The tenant had disclosed her thoughts about suicide to her roommates, which was sadly used by her landlord as a reason to issue her an eviction notice.
Suicide is a health issue and to see it criminalized, or treated as a lease violation, does not help reduce the stigma around this issue or reduce our high rates of suicide. The thought of an eviction notice being issued after someone experienced a stroke, or was diagnosed with cancer, makes reason stare.
Stigma is a barrier to help-seeking. Rather than being directed to resources, this young lady is now facing the loss of her housing.
There are multiple risk factors that lead a person to contemplate suicide, and stress is one of them. At any given time, one in five Utahns are experiencing a mental health issue, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. We need to rally around people who are struggling and provide support, help and love, not a blind eye or a punitive response.
We have fought valiantly to improve mental health resources in our state and reduce the stigma. We need policies that support mental health the same way we address physical health, so we can reverse the disturbing trend of rising suicide rates in our state and nation.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, please don’t wait to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Those who are struggling but not in crisis can reach out to the statewide Warm Line at 1-833-SPEAKUT. Students and parents can download the SAFE UT app for access to crisis services 24/7, or visit LiveOnUtah.org for support and resources.
Taryn Hiatt, Utah Area Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Vineyard
Rep. Steve Eliason, Sandy