The Norman Transcript

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November 16, 2013

Grappling with suicide: Oklahoma’s suicide rate above the national average

NORMAN — The aftermath of a suicide is an endless tunnel of pain, regrets and questions.

Could something have been done to stop him? Why did she do it? What warning signs were there?

The act of taking one’s life leaves no easy answers for those left behind.

“The majority of people who are survivors spend the rest of their lives not talking about this and suffering in silence,” said Mike Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, which will soon rename itself with the word “Oklahoma.” “You don’t necessarily get over it, but you can get better.”

Oklahoma has a suicide rate that’s above the national average and was 12th highest among all states and the District of Columbia in 2010, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both Oklahoma’s and the nation’s rates are increasing. The state’s suicide rate rose by 13 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the CDC. And now, partly because of a rise in suicides among baby boomers, suicide is one of the leading causes of death among nearly all age groups.

More funding for programs and better understanding of mental illness are crucial, Brose said. But his association also is mounting an effort to give people the basic skills for how to recognize and respond to a relative, friend or other person who may be suicidal.

The approach is called QPR – “Question, Persuade and Refer,” and the hope is for it to become as widely accepted as CPR.

QPR training outlines ways to persuade individuals to seek help and provides resources for referral.

“It’s an attempt at getting people much more comfortable than they typically are around this issue,” Brose said. “I’ve heard it over and over again from survivors, ‘I didn’t know what to say.’”

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