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Lawton Community Working to Prevent Suicides

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LAWTON Okla_ Question, persuade, and refer: those three small words can make a big difference to someone who's considering suicide.

That was the topic of a panel discussion Wednesday at Lawton's City Hall, by a group of local health professionals.  The idea was to share strategies for suicide prevention and ways our community can help erase the stigma surrounding one of the leading causes of preventable death.

Over the past 50 years, suicide rates for people ages 15-24 has risen over 200%. 20 service members take their own lives every single day. For so long, suicide has been an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but the professionals say it's time to get over the discomfort and meet the problem head on. They said we can do that by doing what we can to get our loved ones help.

Kiowa Teen Suicide Prevention's Glenn Beaver was once about to take his own life.

"I was perfectly content to shut myself in my home and let the day pass," Beaver said.

He said something clicked in that moment. He decided to live. Now, he's spreading the word on ways people can help others experiencing their own suicidal feelings. He said it all starts with recognizing the symptoms.

"With the common cold, you get a runny nose, you get cough, you're fixing to have a cold," Beaver said. "Well with suicide, there are signs of awareness we can recognize, from reckless behavior to drug and alcohol abuse to more things even like speaking out."

To help recognize those symptoms, Beaver and other professionals, like Christy Red Elk with the Taliaferro Clinic, are proponents of something called "QPR" that stands for question, persuade, and refer. It's a simple training program that is available to anyone. They said it's capable of doing big things.

"It teaches very basic training on reaching out," Red Elk said, "Looking for the signs and changes in their behaviors."

While it's widely known among health care professionals, they're hoping through education, QPR will become as widely known across the world as other procedures like CPR and first aid. They say it's important to understand anyone is capable of getting someone help.

"Everyone out there can help," Red Elk said. "With QPR, it's not a clinical diagnosis, not to diagnose or to be the clinician. It's there to ask the question, persuade them to live and then refer them on to the next step."

That next step is generally the hardest. It can cause feelings of emasculation among men and general embarrassment among others. Because of that, Red Elk said it is our responsibility as a community to be educated on the avenues available to provide help.

"That's what we want to do here," Red Elk said. "We want to make sure we're reaching out and letting them know they need to come in. We need to bother them, and they need to bother us, because that's what we're there for."

QPR training is open to anyone who is interested, and it is free of charge. You can contact Kiowa Teen Suicide Prevention at 405-247-5200 to arrange a training session. They say no group is too big or too small to request a session.

Funding is also a huge resource that is vital to the prevention of suicide and mental health treatment. If you would like to see our area get more funding for treatment centers or outreach programs, Wednesday's panel urged citizens to contact their local state representative.


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