Organizers are pleased with suicide prevention summit

Edmond leaders concerned about a rising suicide rate held community training summit Monday.
BY HENRY DOLIVE Published: April 25, 2012
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— How to observe and act on signs of depression was emphasized Monday as nearly 100 teenagers, children, parents, educators and others turned out for Edmond's first suicide prevention summit.

The event at the University of Central Oklahoma was a communitywide response to seven Edmond deaths by suicide so far this year, including a 14-year-old boy and two 17-year-old boys. Another 15 people have attempted to kill themselves since January.

Edmond police Maj. Steve Thompson said organizers were pleased with the turnout. Among those showing up were two people who sought counseling, he said.

“There was good information passed out to the community tonight,” Thompson said. He said results from an email survey that participants will be asked to complete will be examined to determine whether another summit would be useful.

The summit was sponsored by the Edmond Police Department, Edmond Public Schools, Edmond Family Counseling, the University of Central Oklahoma's Student Counseling Center, OU Medical Center Edmond and Heartline, a nonprofit that deals with suicide prevention.

Susan Parks-Schlepp, Edmond Public Schools public information officer, said organizers sought to focus their efforts on tools teens and adults can use to spot potential suicide risks, how to be alert for potential problems and how people can help a friend who might be at risk.

“In all the suicides we've had in Edmond this year, the only common denominator we can find is depression,” Parks-Schlepp said. She said people who are worried about a friend's behavior need to know what might be done to stave off a tragedy.

Edmond Police Chief Bob Ricks said participants can make a difference by using the information presented in six breakout sessions.

“We are trying to be proactive on something that affects us all,” Ricks said.

Jackie Shaw, executive director of Edmond Family Counseling, said suicides have a ripple effect among families and friends, and the summit represents a healthy community response to the suicides that have happened this year.

The positive step, Shaw said, is that the community can “come together to share thoughts and feelings and to learn to help each other.”

Recognize and act

Emphasis was placed Monday night on recognizing signs of distress in others, and knowing what to do.

Rachel Yates, director of suicide prevention and outreach programs for Heartline, spoke of warning signs such as behavior changes, giving away prized possessions, unexplained emotional outbursts or withdrawing from interaction with friends or activities.

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