‘I loved him off the ledge’: Lehi man inspires suicide prevention playbook
LEHI, Utah — Utah aspires to be a leader in suicide prevention and the state needs help from the public to make that happen.
As part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Utah launched a first-of-its-kind suicide prevention course taught on social media, or online. It’s called Live On Utah: a statewide effort to educate and prevent suicide. The idea is to train as many Utahns as possible to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and what to do next.
The inspiration behind this program happened last January when Joe Tuia’ana of Lehi came across a stranger going through a suicide crisis.
“I am an average Utahn put in a special situation,” Tuia’ana said at the launch of Live On Utah.
On the afternoon of Jan. 29, Tuia’ana spotted the stranger as he was crossing an interstate overpass in Utah County.
Tuia’ana knew he had to stop, get out, and do something.
“We cried together,” Tuia’ana said. He cradled the man in his arms for what seemed like a very long time to him. “All I could muster through my tears was ‘I love you, bro.’”
Nothing else was spoken on that bridge, the suicide prevention advocate said.
“My way of telling someone I love him is ‘I love you, bro’. So, I said it over and over with my arms out like this, and he came down. I loved him off the ledge,” Tuia’ana said.
Since then, Tuia’ana’s family has had that man over for dinner. He likes to see how his new friend is doing.
“Most Fridays I send him a text checking in, ‘I love you bro.’”
Before that experience, he knew suicide was an issue. But that encounter with a stranger in trouble changed his perspective on suicide.
“This moment changed my life forever,” he said.
Utahns do not need to be where Tuia’ana was to save a life. The Department of Health and Human Services Monday launched the Live On Utah Suicide prevention playbook.
The idea is to create Live On ambassadors throughout the state, in every neighborhood.
“This training was developed by mental health experts in the state of Utah. They will walk you through this course and teach you how to recognize warning signs for suicide, how do you have tough conversations, and where to go for help,” said Allison Foust, suicide prevention coordinator for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.
The course work includes 10 lessons, about 10 minutes each, available on Instagram or online for free.
“This program was developed because suicide is a tough conversation,” said Foust. “It’s something we all want to be involved in and make a difference in every day. We just don’t know how.”
The suicide prevention playbook will help people learn to ask tough questions about suicide, and show real empathy and compassion.
“It’s about checking in, knowing what to look for, and where to turn,” said Tuia’ana.
The Live On suicide playbook is on Instagram @LiveOnUtah, or, online at liveonutah.org.
Suicide prevention resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.
- SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-33888)
- SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
- SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
- Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.
Other community-based resources
- NAMI Utah provides education, support and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental illness.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers prevention programs, public education, support for loss survivors, and fundraising for research.
- Encircle Utah: LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center.
- Utah Pride Center empowers Utah’s diverse LGBTQ+ community.
- The Trevor Project: LGBTQ teen resource center.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health
- Latino Behavioral Health Services
- Center for Workplace Mental Health offers suicide prevention and response for employers.
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