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The following is excerpted from the Deseret News. To read the full article, click here.
Last week, lead singer for Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, stopped by the daytime talk show, “Ellen.” The host, Ellen DeGeneres, suggested that suicide in Utah may be related to the “shame” caused by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
“The leading cause of death for Utah kids ages 11 to 17 is suicide,” she said, reading from a card. “Suicide in Utah has increased 141 percent because of the shame they feel from the Mormon Church.”
We commend Ellen and Dan for discussing teen suicide. It is of deep concern to any community, including highly religious people. All need to work together to address suicide’s multiple causes. However, attributing increases in suicide deaths in Utah to the LDS Church is not based in research.
Research in Utah suggests something quite different. For instance, the 2015 Utah Prevention Needs Assessment (a survey of over 27,000 Utah youths) found that teens who attended religious services more often (a few times a month to once a week) were less likely to have suicidal thoughts or suicidal attempts than those who attended less frequently. Further, teens identifying as Mormon were less likely to report suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Another more recent Utah study of 600 families with a teen (the Family Foundations of Youth Development study, 2016-2017) found the same: more religious teens and Mormon teens were significantly less likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Teens who had previously been Mormon (had left the Mormon Church) had similar rates of suicidal thoughts as their non-Mormon peers. As we consider these findings in a highly homogenous religious state like Utah, we acknowledge that a higher rate of suicidal ideation for non-LDS youths in Utah may speak to a need for better integration of non-LDS youths within schools and local communities.
Nevertheless, suicide exists amongst every group and must be addressed; this can only be done effectively as concerned parents, teachers, counselors and legislators work across political and religious lines. For an excellent description of a process aimed at bringing diverse groups together in constructive dialogue, we encourage readers to learn more about the peacemaking protocol established by the Reconciliation and Growth Project.
To read the full article, click here.