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Time to Talk: program intends to reduce stigma of mental health issues, prevent suicides among young people.

Several school districts in the metro area are taking part in a community effort to address suicide prevention this month called Time to Talk. State agencies, the Oklahoma National Guard and other public and private partners are participating.
BY BRYAN DEAN Staff Writer Published: September 8, 2013

If you see a lot of lime green at metro-area high school football games this month and want to ask what it's about, be prepared to talk about a sensitive subject.

Four school districts — Edmond, Mid-Del, Putnam City and Moore — are participating in a joint program this month called “Time to Talk.” The program focuses on suicide and breaking down the stigma around the subject.

The schools are partnering with the state Mental Health and Education Departments, HeartLine Inc. and a variety of nonprofits and corporate sponsors for the project, which kicked off Thursday at the Southmoore vs. Carl Albert football game.

Players from both schools wore bright green socks, towels and wristbands with the Time to Talk logo. Schools will also provide suicide curriculum to students.

All of this is intended to make kids more comfortable discussing the subject with people who can help, recognizing warning signs and realizing that mental health is important, said Lisa Harper, director of development for HeartLine, which runs the suicide prevention hotline for every county in the state other than Tulsa County.

“Reducing stigma is extremely important,” Harper said. “It keeps people from asking for help. We see that especially with youth. They don't want to go to parents or adults.”

Julie Geddes, senior field representative for suicide prevention at the state Mental Health Department, credited Maj. Gen. Myles Deering for coming up with the idea.

Deering, the state's adjutant general, commands the Oklahoma National Guard. He said the Guard has worked hard in recent years to address suicide and mental health for soldiers returning from combat duty.

Deering's wife, Pam Deering, is superintendent of Mid-Del Schools. Schools are on the front lines in dealing with suicide among youth, the second leading cause of death among those ages 10-24 in Oklahoma. In talking about the subject, the Deerings realized a community effort to address the problem was needed.

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