HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — The Family Advocacy Clinic and Suicide Prevention Taskforce here hosted a teen bullying and suicide prevention breakfast and presentation, April 18.
The event was meant in part to facilitate a critical discussion, very timely in Utah, a state with one of the nation’s highest teen suicide rates.
Hope 4 Utah Founder and Executive Director Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall was the event’s guest speaker.
Hudnall is a former high school principal, student service director and associate superintendent with the Provo City School District. He has been involved with suicide prevention for the past 20 years and has personally been involved with over 25 suicides as a first responder or consultant.
During his remarks, Hudnall said bullying is very prevalent in our society and he linked it to teen suicide.
“Ten to 14 percent of all young people who take their lives are young people who have been bullied,” he said. “The more serious the bullying, the higher the rates of depression. The higher the rates of depression, the higher the rates of suicide.”
Hudnall defined bullying.
“Bullying means it happens repeatedly, it’s done on purpose, in some situations it’s a very serious threat or harm, and the victim has a strong emotional reaction.” he said. Young people are most often bullied in bathrooms and lunchrooms at school, he added.
Regarding cyberbullying, Hudnall said 85 percent of victims know the person bullying them.
“Former boyfriend, former girlfriend. In a lot of situations they are very close friends,” he said.
To stem the problem of bullying, Hudnall said that immediate intervention is required when it occurs.
“The first thing we do is recognize the behavior, recognize that it is inappropriate, and we want it to stop,” he said. “We want to empower the victim and depower the perpetrator, the bully.”
According to Hudnall, it’s key to let the victim know that you are on their side and available if future threats occur. It’s equally important to hear what the alleged bully has to say about the incident, and if founded let them know it is inappropriate and will not be tolerated.
Hudnall tells young people that they can make a difference in stopping bullying.
“Bullying will cease 50 percent of the time if just one person has the courage, just one person to say, ‘That’s not cool. Leave him alone. Why are you doing that?’” he said.
About suicide, Hudnall said depression is the number one cause. The difference, he said, between adult and youth suicides is that adults spend a lot of time planning to kill themselves while youths decide and act quickly.
“We call it the 24 to 48 hour window,” he said. “and that’s when most [youth] suicides occur. There’s something that triggers it for them, and then in a short period of time they see suicide as an option.”
Hudnall also noted that April is the highest month for suicides in Utah, and 17 is the most common age for suicide. He attributed this time and age for suicide to the stress that comes from planning for graduation, applying to college and in Utah, the prospect of an LDS mission.
Hudnall’s recommendation for parents was to get their kids connected.
“Sports, music, performing arts. It doesn’t matter what it is but find something so that they have peers and they have friends.” he said.
Col. Jennifer Hammerstedt, 75th Air Base Wing commander, said teen military dependents are not immune to life’s stressors.
“We’re moving kids at critical times in their development, we’re putting them in different schools and sometimes into situations that are socially challenging. All of those things compound to where our children may be more susceptible to life’s stressors than we realize.”