Utah religious leaders are being urged to lead their congregations in prayer this weekend, specifically asking God to help those struggling with suicidal behavior or whose lives have been touched by suicide.
The nondenominational effort is part of the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope and Life. It also is a call for residents to reach out, listen and be kind to others, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said at a new conference Friday.
Cox was joined by a diverse group of religious leaders — including a Baptist minster, chaplains from the Utah National Guard and LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a general authority Seventy with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I believe in God and believe God hears and answers our prayers,” Cox said, “but he almost always does it through other people.”
On numerous occasions, Cox has shared his own story of depression and thoughts of suicide as a child. When he was 10, his parents divorced, and he was bullied in middle school. A Scout leader, he said, “helped me through my darkest time.”
During the announcement at the state Capitol, Cox read a letter from Gov. Gary Herbert, inviting Utah faith leaders to participate in World Suicide Prevention Day, on Sept. 10, and the weekend of prayer.
Utah has the fifth-highest overall suicide rate at 25.2 per 100,000, and, since 1999, the state has seen a 46.5 percent increase in residents taking their own lives.
“Prayer is essential to the success of this effort, both for those seeking help and for those seeking to help,” Curtis said. “Our Father in Heaven and our savior, Jesus Christ, can understand and provide comfort. They can also open our eyes to see others’ needs and inspire us to act.”
In a news release, Utah’s predominant faith says it is inviting its members from coast to coast to “join others ... in prayer this weekend for those whose lives have been touched by suicide and those struggling with suicidal behavior and mental illness.”
Curtis encouraged all Utahns to go beyond simple prayers. “We need more than prayer — we need action."
And, he added, “prayer facilitates action.”
To those experiencing loneliness and despair, Curtis encouraged them to "pray for help from God and ask for help from others. Talk to someone; don’t try to endure alone. Seek professional help.”
For those who want to help: “Pray for those in need and reach out to them,” he said. “Let them know you care and offer a listening ear.”
Pastor Logan Wolf with CrossPoint, a Baptist church in Taylorsville and Provo, said rather than pray for the “3 million children who need help," he encouraged prayers that invoked the specific names of the people who are in your thoughts.
“There’s incredible power in that,” he said, pointing to the Bible verse in John, Chapter 10, which reads: He [Jesus] calls his own sheep by name.
“God is not distant or detached. He knows your name,” Wolf said. "And hearing your own name reminds you that you are not forgotten.”
Utah’s suicide crisis led Herbert to create a suicide prevention task force and state lawmakers approved funding to study why Utahns have died by suicide. The state also has created the SafeUT mobile app, which lets people report suicidal behavior or chat with a therapist.
Suicide prevention, Herbert explained in his letter, must be a communitywide effort.
“Everyone plays a role in suicide prevention and that faith communities play a unique role,” the letter states. “I hope we will use the power of our collective faith and prayers to bring about miracles in the lives of our residents, especially in their darkest hours.”
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts can call the 24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Utah also has crisis lines statewide, and the SafeUT app offers immediate crisis intervention services for youths and a confidential tip program.