Franklin James Cook

Tracking Local Suicide Data Helps Support Life Skills Program

In Postvention, Prevention on March 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm
Amanda Miller ("The Oklahoman" photo by David McDaniel)

Amanda Miller ("The Oklahoman" photo by David McDaniel)

[Editor’s note: The original article includes a brief description of a suicide.] ORIGINAL ARTICLE — Reporter Ron Jackson’s article in the Oklahoman, about the Kiowa Tribe’s Teen Suicide Prevention Program, includes an interview with a program client, Amanda Miller, and a story about the program director, Amy Cozad, who believes, the article says, that “teen suicides are at an ‘epidemic level’ statewide.”

“I use every resource available to me — the state medical examiner’s office, local first-responders, schools, police,” Cozad said. “I try to document the information any way I can. But then there are the attempted suicides, and those are impossible to track.”

In October, the statistics gave way to the reality.

“We had a 19-year-old girl — a Wichita tribal princess — who committed suicide,” Cozad said. “She had attempted suicide 11 times before that. When I got the medical examiner’s report, I just broke down in tears. She had cuts all the way from her wrist to her shoulder.

Cozad’s work also has led her to document likely clusters of suicide in Oklahoma.

In 2007, for example, Cozad logged seven suicides in Anadarko — a Caddo County town of 6,337. Of those, four were people younger than 24.

“I found that number very alarming for a town that size,” Cozad said. “One thing I found early on was it seemed like everyone was trying to chop at the top of the tree and nobody was actually getting at the root of the problem.”

Implementation of the Kiowa Tribe’s Life Skills program was sparked by Cozad’s data, and

Since 2005, more than 200 youngsters have successfully completed the five-month program, which isn’t restricted to American Indian youth.

In the video segment of her interview with the Oklahoman, Miller describes  the mental and emotional struggle that led her to attempt suicide as many as seven or eight times.

“I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care what happened. I got really depressed.”

Miller and Cozad met last November, and Cozad said that, at the time, Miller “‘was always internalizing everything, all the pain and hurt.’”

“Now she’s coming out more and opening up and talking,” Cozad said. “She’s doing a lot better, although she has a long way to go still.”

Miller said, “In the past, whenever I got sad, I wanted to be alone or stop eating or then I’d start cutting myself because it made me feel better. Now if I feel myself getting sad, I write in my journal. I’m still learning. Talking has helped. Before, I didn’t trust anybody enough to tell them things. I’m learning to trust that people do care.”

[The abridged URL for this post is  http://tinyurl.com/LocalData .]

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