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The City Journals

‘Trust yourself as you know your child best’ Community panel talks solutions, awareness on issues facing teens

May 03, 2019 10:22AM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

Catherine Voutaz, a suicide prevention advocate, psychologist Brian K. Chandler, Psy.D. and Trey Edwards, QPR certified instructor. (Jennifer Gardiner/City Journals)

By Jennifer Gardiner | [email protected] 

In a continued effort to bring awareness and education about suicide and mental illness, Herriman City, Jordan District Wellness Coalition and Healthy Herriman continue to team up and hold community meetings and panel discussions to show others how they can be a part of the solution. 

A three-person panel was held at Herriman High School on April 8 to explore cultural and social landscapes, how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression and suicide with a perspective from real experiences.   

The two-hour discussion with Catherine Voutaz, a suicide prevention advocate; Trey Edwards, QPR certified instructor; and psychologist Brian K. Chandler, Psy.D., went over teen suicide risks and protective factors, how to start a conversation with teens and exercising emotional fitness.

Voutaz, who lost her son to suicide in 2017, said she developed an interest in providing information and resources to others she only found out about after her son's suicide.

Voutaz discussed risk and protective factors, including common teenage behaviors and how to trust in your parental instinct. 

“There can be countless circumstances surrounding someone with suicidal thoughts, but actions are driven from a set of a few universal human feelings such as loneliness, rejection, sadness, guilt, shame, fear, anger and depleted self-worth,” said Voutaz. “As parents, it’s important to trust yourself as you know your child best. Assume you are the only one who is going to reach out and be an advocate for your teen.” 

Voutaz said some teens may hide their suicidal thoughts from their parents, not because they don’t trust them or don’t feel close to them, but because they don’t want to hurt them. And many teens know their thoughts are frightening but would rather bear them alone then have to see their parents’ reactions. 

A protective factors checklist was created to help keep teens safer, including tips on locking up your firearms and knowing where your medications are at all times. Promoting healthy habits and encouraging a relationship with another adult besides a parent or guardian are essential too. 

Being involved and listening to teens is also incredibly important.  

Voutaz said they are increasing attendance to QPR sessions and continue to provide free trigger locks to anyone (at the Herriman Library). 

“At every event, we see parents interested in attending QPR sessions and wanting to get involved and downloading the UT Safe App,” said Voutaz. “Anyone in their community can join Healthy Herriman, Healthy Riverton or Healthy South Jordan in their communities.”

Trey Edwards spent time discussing QPR training and the value it has on the community, and Brian K. Chandler, Psy.D., discussed the emotional signs, toll and effects of teen suicide. 

QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, people can train in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis.

QPR trainings are held at the Herriman Library on the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. and Unified Fire Station 124 in Riverton on the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m.

Anyone who is interested in getting involved or wants to learn more can also check out these other trainings:

SafeTALK: A training focusing on being alert to the warning signs of a person at risk of suicide. 

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA): Training for adults who work with and/or assist young people. 

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) teaches skills to help with a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis.

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST): An interactive workshop to help someone who is suicidal. 

The Jordan District Wellness Coalition holds meetings monthly throughout the school year, and you can become a volunteer with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. 

The Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition also has a meeting every other month on the second Monday. 

You can also take on online course at train.org on reducing access to lethal means such as firearms and medication, and to determine whether a person at risk for suicide lives or dies.