(AP) OKLAHOMA CITY — Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the 7th leading cause of death in Oklahoma.
On Monday, May 6, advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the largest suicide prevention organization in the United States, will arrive at the state capitol to urge lawmakers to prioritize suicide prevention and mental health for all Oklahoma residents. The event will include a press conference in the South Plaza outside the capitol at 10:45 a.m. where advocates will be joined by Attorney General Mike Hunter, Representative Jason Dunnington (D-District 88), Representative Marcus McEntire (R-District 50), and Terri White, Commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
"In 2017, we lost 756 Oklahoma residents to suicide. These numbers are staggering! Even more urgent, it remains the 2nd leading cause of death for Oklahoman's ages 15-34, and the 4th leading cause of death for ages 35-44, leaving Oklahoma with the 13th highest rate of suicide in the nation. The AFSP-Oklahoma Chapter Board is passionate and persistent in our efforts and belief that suicide IS preventable. With support, education, and reform, we can reduce the suicide rate across our communities and great state," said Bee Smith, AFSP Oklahoma Chapter Board Member.
Advocates will be asking legislators to support suicide prevention initiatives for Oklahoma's youth including, SB 266 requiring school districts to provide suicide awareness and prevention education for students in grades 7-12 and training for school staff and to adopt related policies, and HB 2456 prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy with minors.
The Oklahoma State Capitol Day is a special day for all who have a connection with or a personal story around the topic of suicide. Volunteers will meet with their state legislators and share their stories about why they participate in this advocacy effort, giving a human face to this important public health problem. Advocates hope that by sharing their stories, they will help legislators understand that state investments in mental health and suicide prevention can save lives.
AFSP Oklahoma advocates are part of a larger national movement of AFSP volunteer advocates who will be visiting over 40 state capitols across the United States in 2019 to bring best practices in suicide prevention to state legislators and their staff. To learn more about AFSP's advocacy efforts, visit here: https://afsp.org/our-work/advocacy/.
On average, 129 Americans died by suicide each day in 2017, and upwards of 90% of those individuals had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death. AFSP volunteers will urge state lawmakers to be the voice for the thousands of Oklahoma residents affected by suicide each year.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that's smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with a Public Policy Office in Washington, D.C. AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
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SOURCE American Foundation for Suicide Prevention