Oklahoma City – The Oklahoma National Guard is helping to lead a collaborative community-based effort to reduce the number of suicides among school aged children and young adults. The pilot project titled “T3-Time to Talk” will launch in four area school districts later this month raising public awareness and providing tools for the prevention of suicides among young people.
The campaign officially kicks off Thursday night when the Southmoore Sabercats host the Carl Albert Titans in the season’s first football game in Moore, Okla. Players from both teams will wear neon green socks, towels and wristbands with the “T3-Time to Talk ” logo. It is hoped that the players’ actions on the field will be the first step toward raising awareness about this extremely important issue.
The Oklahoma National Guard joins forces with the Oklahoma Departments of Mental Health and Education, state-based non-profit organizations and a number of corporate sponsors. Their objective is to teach a suicide prevention curriculum this year in the public schools. The non-profit organizations include A Chance to Change, Central Oklahoma Turning Point, Goodwill and Operation Home Front.
“We have way too many young people, some of them very young, who are taking their own lives,” said Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, the adjutant general for Oklahoma. “One suicide is one too many and I think it’s important that we work together to reduce these tragedies. I believe working together, we can make a difference.”
The Edmond, Moore, Putnam City, and Mid/Del school districts will present the curriculum, which focuses on suicide prevention and building resiliency in our schools and communities. The course teaches elementary, middle school and high school students with age appropriate material for each age bracket.
“In recent years, we’ve had heartbreaking news accounts of school-aged children committing suicide,” said state superintendent Janet Barresi. “We welcome this initiative by the Oklahoma National Guard and partner agencies to bring needed education and resources into our schools and to shine a light of hope for our students.”
Last year, 178 Oklahomans under the age of 30 took their own lives according to Oklahoma vital statistics. By 2018, “T3-Time to Talk” goals include reducing the number of suicides and suicide attempts by 50 percent and increase awareness in Oklahomans about this troubling issue.
The website www.T3-TimeToTalk.com provides the pilot schools with promotional items like stickers, wristbands, bumper stickers and posters designed to get teachers and students talking.
Commissioner Terri White, at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), says the state invested additional resources in suicide prevention. Governor Mary Fallin championed the addition of funding for suicide prevention initiatives during the past legislative session. White emphasizes the issue of suicide prevention is one that requires community partnership and increased public support.
“We (OKDMHSAS) have undertaken several initiatives to address suicide prevention,” said White. “This is one of many efforts that are making a lasting impact on communities statewide. Partnership is the key, and this program is a great step in the right direction. Together, we can make a difference.”
The Oklahoma business community will play a part in making a positive change to reduce the number of suicides in our state according to Gerry Shepherd, CEO/President of Oklahoma Roofing & Sheet Metal, LLC.
“I knew our Soldiers were having problems upon returning from overseas and their suicide rates were high, but after I got involved I found the problem went far deeper than I had originally thought,” said Shepherd. “It was not only a big problem with our Soldiers, but was also an issue affecting way too many school aged kids. It’s terribly important that we all come together as a community to meet this problem head-on and reduce the number of needless deaths.”
State officials plan to expand the program over the coming years to every school district in Oklahoma.