On her TV show, Ellen DeGeneres recently stated that “the leading cause of death for Utah kids ages 11 to 17 is suicide.” That part of the statement was correct. But then she continued reading from a card, as though stating fact, “suicide in Utah has increased 141% because of the shame they feel from the Mormon Church.” She was way off base with that statement.
The vast preponderance of social science research shows just the opposite: religion is often a factor in preventing suicide. The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention says that research “tend(s) to support the basic premise that religion provides protection against suicide risk.” Religion doesn’t lead to suicide. Religion can be a help to teens and others who have suicidal thoughts.
Further, research shows specifically that Mormon teens in Utah are less likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempts. The 2015 Utah Prevention Needs Assessment (a survey of over 27,000 Utah youths) found that teens who attended religious services more often were less likely to have suicidal thoughts or suicidal attempts. That, and other studies, also show that Mormon teens are less likely to report suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Since suicide rates are high in Utah, it may sound convincing to say that it’s because of the LDS Church. But the facts show that it’s not that simple. Suicide is a complex issue with a broad array of risk factors.