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FOR RELEASE: June 15, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

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

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people 15 to 24 years old in Oklahoma. There were 528 suicides in Oklahoma in 2003 with 88 committed by young people under age 25. Males under the age of 25 are much more likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts.

State health officials say that adolescent suicide is preventable. “Most suicidal individuals desperately want to live, they are just unable to see other alternatives to their problems,” said James Allen, coordinator of the Adolescent Health Program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health . “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,” he said.

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.
  • Eighty-three percent of hospitalized suicide attempts occurred in the home.
  • Sixty-nine percent of those who attempt suicide had a history of mental illness.
  • Thirty-seven percent of those who attempt suicide had a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Thirty-three percent of those who attempt suicide had a previous suicide attempt.

Anyone who spends time around young people should be alert for signals that could help prevent a 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).

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 on the web site at: www.health.state.ok.us/program/ahd/index.html or call the Oklahoma State Department of Health Adolescent Health Program, 405/271-4471, for a regional community toolkit to help get local communities started.

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