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Oklahoma Department of Human Services hosts lecture on suicide prevention

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Oklahoma’s suicide rate is almost twice the national average for people ages 25 to 64. Oklahoma Department of Human Services addresses prevention in its next installment of its spring lecture series noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, at Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.

Savannah Kalman, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services prevention program manager, speaks about recent data related to suicide deaths and statewide and individual action strategies.

“One life lost to suicide is one too many,” said Mark Beutler, DHS representative. “As our state faces critical funding issues, it is paramount we do what we can to ensure Oklahomans have a place to go when they need help. Resources and help are out there; this lecture is one way we are letting Oklahomans know the scope of the problem and how they can help prevent it.”

In Oklahoma, there are high numbers of almost every at-risk population, including people serving in the military and veterans, Native Americans, LGBTQ youth and white men between ages 35 and 55.

“[If someone is a member of one of these groups,] that doesn’t mean that your destiny is to have suicidal thoughts,” Kalman said. “It simply means you are in a category that does die at higher rates, and therefore, we want to pay closer attention to what you’re going through.”

Oklahomans also have high rates of substance abuse and access to lethal means, so Kalman and her department focus on making sure people take their prescription medications as prescribed and protect access to firearms.

While feelings of financial insecurity during an economic downturn or feelings of physical isolation due to the state’s rural layout are risk factors for suicidal thoughts, many experience these feelings. Only a small fraction of those experiencing them go on to feel suicidal.

“One thing I want to stress is that if there was one single factor, we would be a lot closer to reducing our rate more swiftly,” Kalman said. “Suicide is complex and personal, and therefore, our strategy for suicide prevention must be comprehensive.”

Part of the strategy is to teach people the warning signs people might exhibit if they have suicidal thoughts.

“We all need to know how to identify the risk factors and warning signs,” Kalman said. “We need to be able to ask the brave question, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?’”

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, some warning signs include feelings of hopelessness, being a burden to others or feeling trapped; acting anxious or reckless; sleeping too much or too little; and withdrawing, showing rage or extreme mood swings.

The Youth Suicide Prevention Council, created in 2001 by the Oklahoma Legislature, meets 1 p.m. every fourth Thursday at Shepherd Mall, 2401 NW 23rd St., Suite 1F. Meetings are open to the public.

“The main purpose of the lecture series is to provide an educational forum on topics that are timely and relevant and allow participants to ask questions, learn and share with each other,” Beutler said.

The lecture is free and open to the public. To register, call 405-521-3552.

If someone is in crisis and needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Print Headline: Hopeful support, The Oklahoma Department of Human Services takes action to help reduce the state’s ballooning suicide rate.

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