In Utah, the leading cause of death for young people ages 10-19 is suicide.
In 2018, Governor Gary Herbert created a Suicide Task Force to begin discussing ways to lower the suicide rate in Utah. Since then, Equality Utah has been working with the Governor’s Office to not only lower the suicide rate, but also to end the harmful practice of conversation therapy, that has been shown to increase suicide rates and suicidal thoughts among those subjected to it.
According to the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth and young adults, LGBTQ youth are particularly vulnerable to suicide ideation. A 2018 study from Dr. Caitlin Ryan at the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State found that among LGBT youth who reported that parents and therapists had subjected them to conversion therapy experienced more than double the rate of depression and nearly triple the rate of suicide attempts. The Same study stated, “attempts to change sexual orientation during adolescence were associated with elevated young adult depressive symptoms, and suicidal behavior, and with lower levels of young adult life satisfaction, social support and socioeconomic status. “
During the 2019 Legislative session, an effort to codify in Utah Law, banning conversation therapy was thwarted by conservatives arguing that the proposed legislation would hamper a therapist’s ability to do their work. While that proposed legislation failed, this week the fight to end conversation therapy had another public debate. On September 26, the Psychologist Licensing Board held a three-hour public hearing to review and propose new professional and ethical rules around the practice of conversation therapy. At that hearing, several dozen speakers told stories of survival and resiliency after being victims of the harmful practice. The outcome of this hearing is not yet known, and public comment is still being taken until October 15. So far, the Utah Department of Commerce has received over 1300 written comments, with 85% in support of the rule changes. If you want to have your voice heard, email Larry Marx and share your support for the proposed rule change.
I hope that these rule changes take effect and Utah youth will no longer be subjected to a practice that is proven to be ineffective.