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suicide

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The victims number in the hundreds across Oklahoma every year, each one a casualty of the state’s epidemic of suicide by firearms.

The youngest last year was a 12-year-old Spiro boy.  The oldest was a 97-year-old Bartlesville man.  Both died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, state data show.

Savannah Kalman leads the state's effort to reduce the prevalence of suicide.
Ashley Sanchez / Oklahoma Watch

One of the paradoxes of Oklahoma is that as friendly as people are, many Oklahomans sink into despair and take their own lives.

The state has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, ranking 13th among states and the District of Columbia in 2013, according to the latest state-level figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Veterans groups continue to criticize U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for objecting to a bill intended to reduce a suicide among military veterans.

Coburn defended his actions on the floor of the chamber, saying the bill would not accomplish its stated goal and duplicates programs that already exist.

ok.gov/health

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) will receive $1.15 million over five years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to gather critical data on homicide and suicide using the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS).

In Oklahoma, suicide is the leading manner of violent death. In 2012, more than 650 Oklahomans died by suicide. The OSDH will use NVDRS data to support suicide prevention programs of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. 

House Panel Hears About Veteran Suicides

Oct 16, 2014

Oklahoma Mental Health Commissioner Terri White outlined veterans suicide statistics for a house panel Tuesday. White says nearly one in four suicides in Oklahoma involved a veteran in 2011. 

White pointed to a program operated by the U.S. Air Force which significantly reduced suicides among the military, offering prove that suicide prevention efforts work. The Department of Mental Health plans to seek an additional one million dollar appropriation next year to implement suicide prevention programs. 

A Mental Health Mission Goes Statewide

Aug 24, 2014
Michael Brose, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma.
Angela Chambers / Oklahoma Watch

Growing up in Kansas near the Oklahoma Panhandle, Michael Brose saw firsthand the struggles of rural residents to find quality health care.

Later, in two decades as executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, Brose observed similar problems with urban residents’ access to affordable care for mental illness and substance abuse.

Today, Brose is using his experience in those two settings to carry out a new, broader mission for his advocacy organization. In April, the Mental Health Association in Tulsa renamed itself the Mental Health Association Oklahoma. That change occurred after the Mental Health Association of Central Oklahoma in Oklahoma City closed its doors.

MHA Oklahoma, based in Tulsa, is now the state’s most prominent nonprofit to focus on mental health services beyond the local level. The need is great: Oklahoma’s rate of mental illness ranks among the highest in the nation, and funding for health services is limited.

In an interview with Oklahoma Watch, Brose discussed the association’s plans for expansion; efforts to help the homeless, teens and veterans, and how to prevent suicide. The interview has been edited and condensed.

You now lead an organization for the entire state. Does that mean you will be offering your services for the mentally ill in every part of Oklahoma?

It’s a step-by-step approach. We’ve always served the Tulsa metro area. The next step is to develop systems that will primarily be targeting Oklahoma City and central Oklahoma areas that will include Norman. I spoke and met with people in Stillwater not too long ago. Ultimately, we want to serve the whole state. Before the expansion, we consulted and worked with contacts in central Oklahoma and around the state in rural areas. We’ve become a member of the United Way of Central Oklahoma, so we’re members of both United Ways (Tulsa and Central Oklahoma).

One of the most exciting things about expanding in other parts of the state is meeting people. We’re all Oklahomans and have similar needs. We’ve had this long history of this dichotomy between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and we’re really about doing our part to break down those barriers.

Brandon Magalassi
Provided

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 as as statewide group. “You don’t necessarily get over it, but you can get better.”

United States Army

Oklahoma veterans and active-duty military personnel are killing themselves at twice the rate of civilians, despite increased efforts to address the problem.

The 2011 suicide rate for soldiers was about 44 per 100,000 population, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of Oklahoma State Department of Health data. This rate includes active-duty military as well as veterans from the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea and World War II. The civilian rate for people over the age of 18 was about 22 per 100,000.