Darrin Brandt says he and other members of an ad hoc suicide prevention group have gotten together because they think that the community has a major problem with self-inflicted death.
But Brandt, Director of Counseling at USU Eastern, also says it is troubling that "major problem" comes with no hard numbers attached.
"If you look at the raw, easy numbers, we have five or six [suicides] for the past year," he explains. "Do you believe that's all? I don't believe it." Even if that number is understated, however, it is still more than twice what the national average indicates it should be.
Brandt is researching records and other sources to find data that may be more conclusive. However, determining whether any given unattended death is suicide is not a cut-and-dried matter, Brandt says.
"To be called a suicide, you have to show that the victim had intent and lethal means and succeeded," he noted. So there are questions about whether things like a drug overdose or a car slamming into a tree constitute accidents or successful death wishes.
Then there are the unsuccessful attempts that compound the extent of the problem, Brandt continues. He declares that having a high incidence of people who want to end their lives shows an undercurrent of hopelessness in the culture that he and his colleagues want to overcome.
In the early days of forming the suicide prevention group, members decided to split into two sections, one for adults and the other for young people. Brandt is on both.
Youth and adults live among different peer groups, with different environments, pressures and means of coping.
Bullying is a big problem in schools, for instance. Brandt says that both the bullies and the bullied have increased risk factors for suicidal behavior, with the bullied being higher.
School districts across the state and nation are aware of the situation, and have rules for violence prevention. "Our school district is inundated with requirements and our group doesn't want to overload them," Brandt says.
Among adults, pressures such as unemployment may trigger feelings of despair. Drug use and abuse - recognized as an above-average problem in the county - are other factors.