National Suicide Prevention Day Brings Attention To High Suicide Rates Among Oklahoma Youth

Friday, September 10th 2021, 10:00 pm
By: Feliz Romero


An Oklahoma mother says people need to be more open to conversations about suicide prevention.

“It is uncomfortable, but I can tell you it is much more uncomfortable when you bury a child because of it,” said Shelli Smartt.

A new Oklahoma law hopes to create more dialogue. State leaders passed Senate Bill 21 last session. It makes it mandatory for school staff to take suicide prevention training.

Evan Smartt, 18, was kind, witty, and a loving son.

“He was full of joy, funny, very dry sense of humor, sarcastic a lot of the times,” said Smartt.

Months after his birthday in 2019 Evan died by suicide. His mother said he made an impact on so many and saved four lives through organ donation.

“He just really loved life which makes it so hard when you talk about suicide and ending your life that what brings in the mental health conversation,” she said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds.

Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd and her colleagues responded to the report with Senate Bill 21.

“It gives Boards of Education in each school district in our state the authority to require staff training which addresses suicide awareness and prevention,” said Floyd.

“Anybody that is going to have the day-to-day connections with that student I feel like they need to know the warning signs,” said Smartt.

On National Suicide Prevention Day, she wants to remind people of the importance of the conversation.

“Having a bill like this in place helps you go into these conversations a little bit more prepared,” she said.

The training is available for teachers right now and will be an option for 7th through 12th graders starting next year.

“We want to provide them with the training to be able to become aware if they see problems with their best friend,” said Senator Floyd.

The training, developed by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is free for districts every two years.

It is our policy to provide resources for anybody considering self-harm when reporting about a situation involving suicide or a suicide attempt. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.

The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) connect veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.

Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.