Village voice: Dr. Greg Hudnall speaks out for suicide prevention

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Dr. Greg Hudnall left his job as an associate superintendent with the Provo School District to lead the local fight against teen suicide. Now, he’s the one community, school and religious leaders reach out to for presentations and advice when suicides happen. He has personally responded to more than  25 suicides.

Dr. Greg Hudnall left his job as an associate superintendent with the Provo School District to lead the local fight against teen suicide. Now, he’s the one community, school and religious leaders reach out to for presentations and advice when suicides happen. He has personally responded to more than 25 suicides.

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By the Numbers

9th – Utah ranks ninth in the nation for suicides among youth ages 10 to 17.

125 – More than 125 Utah schools have Hope Squads — peer-led organizations trained in suicide prevention.

15.5% – The Utah 2013 Sharp Survey Data of high school students found that 15.5 percent seriously considered attempting suicide and 12.8 percent had actually made a suicide plan.

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During the 1997-98 school year, while working as the principal at Independence High School in Provo, Dr. Greg Hudnall was contacted by police to identify the body of one of his students who had committed suicide at a nearby park.

“When I got back to my car, I threw up and I cried,” Greg says. “I decided at that time I was going to do everything I could to limit teen suicide.”

Greg eventually stepped out of traditional educational roles to be the founder and executive director at Hope 4 Utah, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the community on warning signs and coordinating local resources to help at-risk youth.

Utah ranks ninth in the nation for suicides among youth 10 to 17, and the state’s Department of Health ranked suicide as the No. 1 cause of death for that same age bracket. That’s why Greg and 3,000 Hope 4 Utah volunteers work with local communities to pair resources with those who need help.

“We’ve seen great things happen when we bring community partners around the same table,” Greg says. “Police, schools, mental health professionals and hospitals all provide part of the solution for at-risk youth. And we all want to help. That’s what kids and parents need — to know there is help out there.”

Greg has adapted an old African proverb as the Hope 4 Utah motto: “It takes an entire community to save a child.”

Hope 4 Utah’s local suicide prevention community is led by the Utah County Help Task Force, which is made up of professionals from 15 agencies — coordinated through the efforts of Greg and his team — working together to fight the crisis.

To get involved directly or to offer financial assistance to Hope 4 Utah, visit hope4utah.com.

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Greg Bennett

Greg Bennett is an editor and writer with Bennett Communications. His primary responsibilities are with Utah Valley Magazine and the company's custom publications division. He's the father of four children and has been married to his wife, Adria, for 19 years. Contact Greg at greg.utahvalley360@gmail.com.

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