The recent death of comedian Robin Williams brought the issue of mental health and suicide into the national spotlight. Here in Oklahoma, the problem is a big one.
Oklahoma ranks eighth in the nation in the number of people who die by suicide. On Monday the Department of Mental Health was working to reduce that number.
On Sept. 25, 2000, Kevin Hines attempted to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I would call that the single worst action ever taken. It was an instant regret upon hitting freefall,” he recalled. “I said to myself, ‘What have I just done. I don't want to die. God please save me.'”
Hines survived and now has dedicated his life to saving others. He told his story Monday at the "Zero Suicide Summit" in Edmond; an initiative to train behavioral health professionals with specific skills to treat those who are suicidal.
More than 600 people in Oklahoma died by suicide last year, that's more than those who were killed in car crashes. Because Oklahoma has such a high suicide rate, the state has received one of four grants to train doctors and emergency room professionals to look for the signs of those contemplating suicide.
But ODMHSAS Director Terri White says everyone can help prevent suicide.
“I'm talking for just anyone, the lay-person asking the question that may make us uncomfortable. ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?' Saying that very directly to someone may save a life because suicide is preventable,” said White.
Hines says he shares his story around the country and in a new book in hopes of encouraging others to ask for help.
“Everybody has a story,” said White. “We can all help people with the right messaging.”
If you know someone who is contemplating suicide, encourage them to call the suicide hotline at 1 (800) 273-TALK.