PROVO — Dr. Greg Hudnall, associate superintendent of the Provo City School District, is stepping down next month so he can focus all of his attention on preventing teen suicide.
Hudnall has helped manage the business of the district for decades, but an experience with a student's suicide early in his career also left him with a desire to do more.
“I was a high school principal, and I got a call from the Provo Police Department that there was a student with no identification that had taken his life next to my school,” he said.
Hudnall had to identify the body, and he vowed to do everything he could to prevent another death by suicide.
In 1999, a group of professionals, parents and concerned citizens came together and created the Utah County HOPE Task Force. HOPE is an acronym to help prevent suicidal teens from taking their lives — hold on, persuade and empower.
The task force developed an intervention model to reduce suicides. Wasatch Mental Health, Provo City School District, Intermountain Healthcare and BYU got together to provide training and support to prevent youth suicides.
Hudnall then created Hope4Utah.com. The site offers training opportunities and outlines what to do when a student is in crisis and how to handle the aftermath of a suicide.
The Provo City School District used to average one to two suicides a year, but the district is now going on its eighth year without a suicide. According to the American Association of Suicidology, Utah ranks 10th in the nation for the most youth suicides.
Provo-based home security vendor Vivint is sponsoring the Hope 4 Utah foundation, and Hudnall will be working to take the organization statewide.
"Because of suicide contagions and other things, we want to do everything we can, if we've had a suicide, to make sure we intervene to make sure there’s not another suicide,” he said.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc