Suicide continues to be a problem in the United States — where the rate continues to climb — and in Oklahoma, which has a rate significantly higher than the national average.

According to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released in late January, suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the rate of suicide increased by 1.4% in 2018. In 2017, there were 47,173 suicide deaths, and in 2018 there were 48,344 — an increase of 1,171 additional deaths, according to CDC data.

Oklahoma has a significantly higher rate of suicide than the national average in 2017, with 19 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 14 per 100,000. But, in 2018-2019, the state saw its first reduction in suicide rates since 2014-2015, according to CDC data shared by America’s Health Rankings.

In the Sooner State, suicide prevention advocates are hoping a broad community-based response will continue to reduce suicide rates in the state.

Charita McOsker, LPC, program director for Northwest Center for Behavioral Health (NWCBH), said even a small decline in suicide rates is heartening, after a significant increase in recent years.

NWCBH has been focusing on Zero Suicide, a nationwide program that works to bring suicide prevention resources into public schools.

“We want to educate the public and provide services for all who need them, with the intent of preventing all suicides,” McOsker said. “We are targeting the schools and educators, because that’s who spends the most time with our young people.”

NWCBH offers the Zero Suicide training curriculum to any school, or any other entity in its 12-county area, that wants to train its members, students or employees, free of charge.

The main thrust of the program, McOsker said, is to educate people on the warning signs of suicide, to break down stigma surrounding suicide and mental health treatment, and to “get people to the resources they need.”

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website, https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs, has information on suicide risk factors and warning signs.

Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 is available 24 hours a day for anyone in need.

Help is available, and we urge anyone who is going through tough times to seek out assistance.

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