LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Lawton Public School officials say they are taking a hands-on approach to prevent teen suicides in order to keep their students safe.
Monday, they kicked off a four-day training session where school counselors, area officials and police will respond to scenarios they may face, talk about community resources and brainstorm ideas for future suicide prevention programs.
Training participants were faced with situations including how to talk to students after a fellow classmate has committed suicide and if a student tells you they no longer want to live…what do you do? School counselors say they are faced with students talking about self-harm and suicide on a daily basis.
Tomlinson Middle School counselor Kelly Mims says it can be emotional to talk with students who come to speak with her who are contemplating suicide.
"A lot of times it is because we know some of their backgrounds. Some of them are new to us, but a lot of them we know where they have come from and what is going on in the home and socioeconomic, and those things and everything matters to them. What we think is small, to them it's huge," Mims said.
Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Lawton Public Schools Cynthia Walker says suicide is like the elephant in the room. People know it is going on, but no one wants to talk about it.
"That's like planting the idea in the mind of an adult or a child, but the more that I have read and did the research that is not the case. The case is it helps us to be prepared just in case a kid comes or student comes and that is where their mind-set is at that time," Walker said.
Concerned community member Janis Kindred says she has no formal training, but wants to help prevent suicide in her hometown of Anadarko after a handful of teens took their own lives. She's part of a group working to put together their own coalition.
"Any loss of life is tragic and we don't want it to happen, so it is kind of one of those things. It is time for us to take our community back and to put into place programs and maybe to change some thought processes," Kindred said.
The statistics show change is needed. In 2014, Comanche County's suicide rate was 16.7 per 100,000 people, which is higher than the national rate of 12.1 per 100,000 people.
LPS is holding these sessions in hopes of creating a suicide prevention program that will start next August. It will primarily focus on 8th- and 9th-graders. The training is being paid for by a $60,000 grant that LPS received July 2015 from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health.