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FOR RELEASE: September 3, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Knowing the Warning Signs Can Prevent Suicides
Call for help: 1-800-522 TEEN (8336); 1-800-SUICIDE

Oklahoma ranks 9th in the nation for suicide completions for all age groups, according to data released by the American Association of Suicidology. Oklahoma’s rate is 14.8 per 100,000 people compared to the national average of 10.8 per 100,000 people in 2001. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents age 15-19.

State health organizations are stepping up education and suicide prevention efforts to draw attention to this problem during National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 5 - 11. The national theme this year is “Working Together to Save Lives, ” said health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Alcohol use and the abuse of other substances, mental illness and environmental influences all contribute to the problem. Advancements are being made to address the issue of youth suicide and reduce risk factors, according to Oklahoma Secretary of Health Terry Cline, Ph.D. Dr. Cline is also commissioner of the state’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“During the past couple of years, we have introduced efforts to increase access to health services, implement prevention efforts and bring together resources from multiple agencies specifically to address the needs of Oklahoma youth,” says Cline. “The health of all Oklahomans is a priority for our state, and takes on an increased sense of urgency when we talk about the health and well being of our young people.”

Cline points to recent legislative efforts making it more difficult for youth to access alcohol and tobacco products, expansion of best practice approaches in mental health and substance abuse to increase availability of services, and various awareness and prevention programs as important steps toward addressing the problem.

“Suicides are a great concern to us and studies show that males complete suicide at a rate four times that of females. However, females attempt suicide three times more often than males. It is also alarming that suicide rates are highest among the divorced, separated and widowed, and they are especially high in the elderly,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “That’s why various agencies and organizations are joining resources and coordinating efforts to help prevent these tragedies.”

“Effective clinical care, restricted access to lethal means of suicide, strong connections to family, community, cultural and religious beliefs, medical and mental health care, and development of problem-solving skills can encourage self-preservation,” Crutcher said.

James Allen, coordinator of the OSDH Adolescent Health Program, advocates involvement, communication and alertness to potential life changes by family, friends and those who spend time around young people.

“Most suicidal individuals desperately want to live; they are just unable to see other alternatives to their problems,” says Allen. “Knowing the warning signs and knowing how to get help are keys to suicide prevention.”

September 5-11 is National Yellow Ribbon Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week.

Individuals are encouraged to wear yellow ribbons in support of those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, are in need of assistance, and those who have failed past attempts and are now making positive changes in their lives.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the Teenline at the 1-800-522 TEEN (8336), Reachout at 800-522-9054, or CONTACT at 1-800-SUICIDE.

The Oklahoma State Suicide Prevention Plan is available online at www.health.state.ok.us/program/ahd/index.html or by calling the OSDH Adolescent Health Program, 405/271-4471. You may also contact the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Office of Communications and Public Information, at 405/522-3907. Also available for community planners is a copy of the state’s Suicide Prevention Toolkit to aid in the creation of local prevention efforts.

(EDITORS: See attached “Teen Suicide Fact Sheet”)

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Teen Suicide Fact Sheet

A review of the Oklahoma data of suicides shows that:

  • In 2002, 29 adolescents age 18 and under committed suicide.
  • Whites have the highest rate of suicide among persons over age 15.
  • Native Americans have the highest suicide rate for those younger than age 15.
  • Suicide rates are slightly higher in rural counties.
  • 81 percent of hospitalized suicide attempts occurred in the home.
  • 64 percent of suicide attempters had a history of mental illness.
  • 36 percent of suicide attempters had a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • 35 percent of suicide attempters had a previous suicide attempt.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry released the following warning signs for suicide:

  • Change in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities.
  • Violent actions, rebellious behavior or running away.
  • Drug and alcohol use.
  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance.
  • Marked personality change.
  • Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a declining quality of schoolwork.
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms related to emotions such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue etc.
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  • Not tolerating praise or awards.
  • Complaints about being a “bad” person or “feeling rotten” inside.
  • Giving verbal hints with statements such as “I won’t be a problem for you much longer,” “nothing matters,” “It’s no use,” or “I won’t see you again.”
  • Putting his or her affairs in order such as giving away favorite possessions, cleaning his or her room, throwing away important belongings, etc.
  • Becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression.
  • Having signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts).

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