EDMOND — An alarming statistic was front and center at a suicide prevention summit held earlier in the week at the University of Central Oklahoma.
There have been 13 suicides reported to police in the city so far this year, compared to only four in all of last year.
A 14th suicide involving an Edmond Memorial High School freshman took place at his home in far northeast Oklahoma City, just south of the Edmond city limit.
Another 49 residents have attempted suicide this year in Edmond, police records show.
Jennifer, who did not want to give her full name to protect her son's identity, attended the summit and said she is afraid her teenager could be the next suicide in Edmond.
She said her teenage son has become severely depressed in recent months after she and her husband divorced and the boy's father moved out of state. She was one of scores of people who attended the summit Monday night at UCO's Center for Transformative Learning building.
“As a parent, you will try and do anything to save your child,” Jennifer said. “My son is on the brink … I really believe that and that's why I'm here.”
Jennifer said her son attempted suicide earlier in the year but she did not report the incident at her son's insistence. She would not say how he attempted suicide, but called the experience “the worst 12 hours of my life.”
“He told me he didn't mean it, that he didn't really want to die,” Jennifer said. “But you lose some trust after finding your child like that. You lose trust that they won't harm themselves.”
Suicide data compiled by the Edmond Police Department shows that 11 of the 13 reported suicides this year have been males, but many of the other factors are varied.
Only two females have committed suicide this year, records show, but 33 of the 49 attempts were described as “women.”
Records also show that people who have committed suicide in Edmond this year are from all age groups — not just young people or teenagers.
In fact, the age group with the largest number of attempts and confirmed suicides is the 41 to 62 age group. Fourteen people in this age range have attempted suicide this year, while another four carried out the act, records show.
Three people under the age of 18 have committed suicide this year, not including the Edmond Memorial student, who was 14.
People between the ages of 18 and 25 have accounted for three suicides this year, as well.
People 63 and older and those between the ages of 26 and 40 have fewer reported suicides among them, with only three falling in those age ranges in 2012.
‘A real problem'
Organizers of Monday night's summit, which is the second one held in Edmond this year, say that nobody is sure why there has been a spike in suicides this year.
Jenny Monroe, an Edmond police spokeswoman, said the department has no answer, either.
“They've all just been completely different circumstances, honestly,” Monroe said.
Kathy Matthews, who works for Edmond Family Counseling, said there may not be a ready-made explanation for the suicides this year, but the rise in self-inflicted deaths is “a real problem.”
“All of our tragic circumstances … have cut across age, cut across gender, across socio-economic … there's hasn't been a uniting characteristic,” Matthews said. “Nobody is immune. Anybody can find themselves in that situation.”
Matthews said the apparent randomness of the suicides has the Edmond community anxious to do something about the problem.
“Because of that, I think the community is concerned as to how to recognize someone who's in crisis and the appropriate way to reach out,” she said.
The summit focused on a method of suicide prevention and intervention, which was developed in the 1990s to teach people how to recognize the warning signs associated with suicide and then do something about it.
Those in attendance Monday night were broken up into smaller groups and were to question whether a person is contemplating suicide, persuade the person to seek help and referring them to a trained person who can provide that help.
Jennifer, whose son attempted suicide while she was out of town for the day back in July, said she was familiar with many of things the instructors were talking about, but said everything helps.
“I've looked into this a lot since my son's suicide attempt and since he became as depressed as he has been,” she said. “But you've got to learn all you can … if your loved one is truly suicidal.”
AT A GLANCE
Several behavior changes may serve as suicide warning signs:
SOURCE: HeartLine and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline