EDUCATION & SCHOOLS

Lehi school resource officer, middle schooler prevented Utah student’s planned suicide

Apr 9, 2024, 5:28 PM | Updated: 11:52 pm

LEHI — The Alpine School district said a seventh grader who brought a gun to his Lehi middle school in November, planned to take his own life. But thankfully, a school resource officer and a fellow student stepped in.

The district is shedding new light on the details after the school resource officer was highlighted by the National Association of School Resource Officers.

The officer, Cpl. Jake Smith, said it started when a middle-school girl reported to the vice principal that she overheard that this seventh-grader boy had a gun with him at school.

“I did a search of the backpack and found a .45 caliber handgun in his backpack,” Smith said. He said the boy first claimed he brought it to school to show some friends.

“To me, that’s kind of a red flag. You know, that’s not really something that a normal, you know, a kid would do to bring to school to show off.  (They’re) usually a showing off their new phone or their new shoes, not a handgun.”

Then, Smith said he found other concerning red flags that prompted more questioning.

“I found, you know, the word ‘kill’ written on a few things in his binders and papers… There were writings from him that were concerning and suicidal and violent,” Smith said.

That’s when Smith said the boy admitted he had planned to take his own life. He said together with the boy’s mom, they took him to a hospital to meet with a crisis worker, and eventually got him into a treatment facility.

Hope Squads hold training for mental health advocacy, suicide prevention efforts in Utah schools

“It was several days that he was there and got the help that he needed because later on we did sit down with him and he was a lot more remorseful.”

Smith is hoping parents and students will take several lessons. First, he says the boy got the weapon by stealing the key to his family’s safe.

“They only had a key to it, so it wasn’t like a keypad. It wasn’t necessarily most of the secure safe, in my opinion.”

He’s urging parents to continually check their safes, both for a secure lock and to ensure that their firearms are there continuously.

Smith said the Lehi middle school seventh grader also admitted to showing the gun to five friends, who said nothing to school administrators.

He is crediting the girl who went to the vice principal for speaking up.

“I’m super proud of that one girl who just a rumor overheard it wasn’t part of the conversation she is on that reported it. Without her, who knows what would have happened.”

He also wants to make sure kids know to report anything suspicious, no matter how big or small, to a trusted adult.

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Getting help

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.

Additional resources

Counties in Utah provide services for mental health and substance use disorders. Centers are run by the thirteen Local Mental Health and Substance Use Authorities all across the state and offer therapy, substance use disorder treatment, support groups, mobile services, youth treatment, and more.

These resources and more information can be found here: https://www.uacnet.org/behavioralhealth.

  • 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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Lehi school resource officer, middle schooler prevented Utah student’s planned suicide