With Oklahoma being ranked eighth in the nation for the highest suicide rate, health officials urge citizens to be aware of the signs, reach out for help, and listen to those who may have reached out to you.
Sunday marked the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week, and southern Oklahoma organizations want to remind citizens that there is help for anyone thinking about attempting suicide.
“Suicide has a great impact nationally and southern Oklahoma is no different,” said Mikinzie Price, executive director of Sara’s Project— an organization in Ardmore that provides crisis prevention and support services. “Always reach out to someone if you’re feeling like suicide is an option, and those who are reached out to should listen and respond. Often people think they don’t really mean it, and it won’t happen, but it does.”
In 2007, House Resolution 1025 officially recognized suicide prevention week in Oklahoma. At the time, Oklahoma ranked 14th in the nation for suicides based on population— 12 percent higher than the national average, according to the Institute for Child Advocacy. During that time, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse reported 13 suicides being attempted every two days. Ten years later, the numbers don’t look any  better.
Oklahoma now ranks eighth in the nation for the highest suicide rate with 790 deaths by suicide reported in 2015, according to the CDC. Data from Sara’s Project shows that death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 14-21 in Oklahoma. The organization’s data also shows “more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.”
But southern Oklahomans should know that there are many organizations dedicated to helping connect citizens to the resources they need.
Sara’s Project offers free training programs, open to anyone, that aim to help save lives through awareness, prevention and intervention. The organizations  three and a half hour SafeTALK program aims to prepare participants to identify those with thoughts of suicide and connect them with potentially life-saving first aid resources. Their Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is a workshop that teaches participants to carry out life-saving interventions for people at risk of suicide.
“We train anyone and everyone,” Price said. “They can be grandmas, aunts, uncles, moms and dads. You don’t have to be medical personnel to participate in our programs.”
Ashley Godwin, director of Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative, is working with Ardmore-area organizations with the goal of having someone in everyplace that someone might go regularly knowing how to recognize signs of distress or depression in a person, and knowing where to refer them.
“We are trying to set the standards where there is no wrong door in Ardmore,” Godwin said. “We want all organizations you go to regularly to notice things are off and be able to intervene.”
Godwin said these organizations can even be places like your local bank.
“We are trying to make an impact by coordinating services so that people stay at a healthier place and don’t become suicidal,” she added. “There is never just one cause for someone wanting to attempt suicide. It’s a combination of factors. Something that may not be a big deal to me may be a huge deal to you, so having compassion for that other person and being understanding of what they’re going through is extremely important.”
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, there are many signs to look for when considering if someone is contemplating attempting suicide:
• talking about wanting to die
• looking for ways to kill oneself,
• talking about feeling hopeless
• talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• talking about being a burden to others
• increased use of drugs or alcohol
• acting anxious or agitated/ behaving recklessly
• sleeping too little or too much
• withdrawing or feeling isolated
• displaying extreme mood swings.  
The SDE states that if any of the signs follow a painful event, loss, or change, that person may be at greater risk for contemplating self harm.
All organizations stress that having an open conversation about what people are going through, without judgement, could potentially save someone’s life, and Carter County Health Department Regional Administrative Director Mendy Spohn agrees.
“Suicide is a significant public health problem in our area and state,” Spohn said. “We encourage people in the community to have a dialogue about this issue whether it’s in their homes or throughout the community.”
For anyone who wants to register for one of Sara’s Projects workshops, contact Donnell Cox at 580-226-7283 or 580-768-0053.
Anyone seeking help may receive immediate assistance by logging onto Suicide.org or by calling 1-800-SUICIDE, services are available 24 hours a day.