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For Andrea Hood, temporarily removing a suicidal person's gun from their home is common sense, akin to taking away a drunk person's car keys.

"When someone is going through a hard time, we want to temporarily and voluntarily remove access," said Hood, a state Department of Health suicide-prevention expert. As with their keys, "we want to keep them alive, so we offer to hold on to [the guns] for a while."

Though the approach is one of nine protective strategies outlined in the state's new suicide-prevention plan, it is crucial, officials said, because firearms were the most common method of suicide in Utah between 2012 and 2014, according to state data.

"Suicide prevention tends to be based off short-term crisis thinking," Hood said. "If we can get people through that crisis state by reducing their access to firearms and their means of taking their life during that time, they often go on to seek help and have recovery. Many may never be suicidal again."

The state released the plan Tuesday, with a goal of reducing Utah's suicide rates 10 percent by 2021.

The plan comes as the state faces an increase in suicide deaths: 609 Utahns killed themselves in 2015, state data shows, compared to 555 in 2014.

Utah had the seventh highest suicide rate in the U.S. in 2014 for individuals ages 10 and older. An average of 4,410 Utahns attempt suicide every year, the data shows.

"Everyone plays a role in suicide prevention and it is up to each one of us to help create communities which are strong in factors that protect people from suicide," Hood said.

In terms of reducing access to lethal means, the plan calls for incorporating suicide prevention and awareness "as a basic tenent of firearm safety and responsible firearm ownership," as well as train providers such as pharmacists and counselors about access to lethal means.

Other steps outlined in the plan include increased availability and access to health care ­— both physical and behavioral — as well as making communities and schools more safe and supportive.

It also calls for early intervention and prevention for mental health problems along with better support for suicide loss survivors.

The state already is implementing many of these goals, but hope to raise engagement on the issue across the community.

In the coming weeks, for example, department officials will begin reaching out to individuals whose loved ones killed themselves to offer support and "connect them to already existing resources," Hood said.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has been outspoken about the high rate of youth suicide in the state, stressed the importance of seeking help.

"For too long, stigma has cast a wide shadow over our communities," Hatch said. "By actively encouraging those who are suffering to seek the help they need, we can change the paradigm of behavioral health and ultimately save lives."

Utahns having suicidal thoughts can get help 24/7 by calling the Statewide Crisis Line at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. They also can get help at

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently launched a suicide-prevention website,, that "provides information and resources for people struggling with suicidal thoughts," according to a church news release, and "includes links to other websites that list warning signs and to crisis helplines around the world."

Twitter @alexdstuckey