In 2007, I authored House Resolution 1025, recognizing Suicide Prevention Week in Oklahoma. At the time, Oklahoma ranked 14th in the nation for suicides based on our population, or 12 percent higher than the national average. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (ODMHSA) reported 13 suicides were attempted every two days in Oklahoma, with 445 Oklahomans taking their own lives annually.
Unfortunately, the figures just ten years later show things have gotten much worse. Oklahoma is now ranked 8th nationally in frequency of suicides and data shows 790 Oklahomans committed suicide in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I am certain most Oklahomans can point to someone they know who has attempted suicide. In just one summer a few years ago, I knew three people who took their own lives.
The first, a friend from college, suffered many different traumas through his life, but the last straw was losing his job. He organized his affairs and then checked into a hotel room where he took his life without any warning to his friends.
The next was a high school student from another state who was involved in a national youth program in which I assist. I was present for this young man’s discussion on reducing school bullying. He confided to the forum that he had been bullied since grade school due mainly to his sexual orientation. Just a short time after the conference, his suicide note on twitter read: “The kids at school are right. I’m a loser, a freak …and in no way is that acceptable for people to deal with.” He claimed the kids mocked him with gay slurs and he apologized for “not being a person that would make someone proud.” Soon after posting those comments, he took his own life.
The third suicide struck me closer to home, as a man from my hometown just one year older than me took his own life. He had struggled with depression for years following the death of his father and other personal issues he was going through. People around him did not take his words seriously when he wondered aloud about the value of his own life.
Please do not take lightly comments or actions from those around you who might face depression. Encourage those facing issues to visit 211ok.org or dial 211. This service will connect them with a professional counselor. In addition, a new service offered is 211onDemand. Simply Text “211OK” to 898-211 to try out this text service. 2-1-1 is divided into two regions in Oklahoma. If you would like to offer financial support to assist these programs, please check out information located at http://www.heartlineoklahoma.org/ for the OKC/western portion of the state and http://csctulsa.org/2-1-1-helpline/ for the Tulsa/eastern portion of Oklahoma.
If you would like to learn more about suicide prevention for children, you can find a long list of online resources, prevention plans and facts and figures on the ODMHSAS website, or by clicking here (or visiting https://www.ok.gov/odmhsas/Prevention_Programs/Initiatives/Youth_Suicide_Prevention_and_Early_Intervention_Initiative/Suicide_Prevention.html). Please watch for the signs and help those around you who are facing trauma. You might be the one they need to help save their life from the tragedy of suicide.