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Department Resident Utilizes Telehealth to Reduce Suicides Around Mountain West

May 15, 2019

When James Morris, MD, speaks to providers in Rexburg this May, he’ll be talking to people who know first-hand about the challenge of preventing suicide. The Idaho town has had eight suicides over recent months.

“I think everybody is somewhat aware of the situation there at this point, but we want to provide education as far as how to recognize, prevent and reduce suicide in their community,” said Morris.

His presentation is part of the Physician Speaker Series, offered by the Office of Network Development and Telehealth at University of Utah Health. The ONDT Education Team, which coordinates this effort, is committed to disseminating best practices and providing lifelong learning opportunities for healthcare providers and medical trainees throughout the Intermountain West. 

Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, where Morris’ presentation will occur, is one of 23 hospitals affiliated with University of Utah Health. Outreach programs are built around the needs of the communities.

The program allows practitioners to attend educational events that can enhance their skills, increase professionalism and expand their knowledge of current treatments.

The trainings can be attended in-person or via computer, smartphone or tablet. People can watch live or take advantage of the resources at their convenience. Some programs allow participants to earn Continuing Medical Education credit.

“We want to create easy-to-access opportunities for communicating medical knowledge, to better support our rural and underserved communities,” said Christina Choate, a lead program coordinator at the Office of Network Development & Telehealth.

If University Health providers want to share knowledge about their specialty, they can set up a training through Outreach Education. Communities can also reach out and request educational programs and trainings.

The Rexburg hospital contacted University Health after the growing trend of suicides became apparent. They asked if a specialist could come to their community to discuss resources and prevention techniques.

University Health is reaching out to behavioral health centers, school districts and counselors, LGBTQ groups and others to make sure all medical providers and behavioral health providers are aware of the free event.

Nationwide, suicide rates have been on the rise for about 20 years. Utah, Montana, and Idaho have seen some of the largest increases in suicides in the last 10 to 15 years.

Morris, a resident in psychiatry, will discuss who should be screened and what screening techniques can be used. Research shows that about 50 percent of people who attempt suicide have seen their primary care provider within one month of the attempt. A patient may complain of other physical symptoms, however, such as headaches or abdominal pain that can be related to depression or anxiety.

The Zero Suicide healthcare initiative (, which Morris will present, has proven effective in some communities.

“Providers would have some familiarity with it but it’s a way to reinforce some of the information,” Morris explained. “My family is from rural communities, so it’s close to my heart as far as educating the general population as well as primary care providers.”

The Physician Speaker Series and other educational offerings are announced each month in the ONDT Provider Education Newsletter. For more information, email or contact Kristy Haun at

Dr. Morris' presentation will be broadcast live from Madison Hospital in Rexburg, ID
on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 12:00pm.
You can watch live from your computer, smartphone, or tablet by
visiting (Meeting ID: 380955144).