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Program aims to prevent student suicide in Michigan

Posted: 1:16 PM, Sep 06, 2016
Updated: 2016-09-06 13:16:31-04

A program that started in 2014 to help prevent suicides in Michigan has received nearly 5,000 tips since starting, and continue to reach out to middle and high school students to help where needed.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recognized September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month by reminding residents of the educational efforts being taken by the program OK2SAY regarding the issue.

“It is heartbreaking when a young person takes their life because they feel there is no other way,” said Schuette. “OK2SAY is actively trying to change that.”

According to the Michigan 2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Study that was recently released, show the following statistics of the 12 months prior to the survey:

• 17.3 percent seriously considered attempting suicide
• 15 percent made a plan about how they would attempt suicide
• 9.2 percent attempted suicide at least once
• 2.6 percent attempted suicide that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse.
• “Numbers like these are why a program like OK2SAY is so important,” said Schuette. “If just one life is saved, and one suicide is prevented this program is a success. I am looking forward to seeing what the future is for this program in Michigan.”

The OK2SAY program has technicians that are specially trained and know what to look for how to respond when they receive a tip about suicide. When needed, they arrange for medical intervention for students attempting suicide, call for wellness checks on students reported to be suicidal, given mental health referrals to students in need and prompt professionals to reach out to students who have written a suicide note.

Since it’s inception almost two years ago, more than a quarter million middle and high school students in Michigan have attended an OK2SAY presentation. In addition to discussing the issue of suicide, the presentations also touch on bullying, peer abuse, self-harm, assault and gun violence.

The program’s goal is to empower students to do the right thing and provide a tip if they see anyone in need.

According to a press release, experts note bullying is a factor in some deaths by suicide, which is why it is an area of focus for OK2SAY.

An anti-bullying advocate whose son died by suicide, and is also a parent advocate for OK2SAY, says the program has helped.

"In the world of bullying prevention, we all need to be creative and think very differently. When the idea for OK2SAY was brought up, the response was ‘No one will use it’." Said parent advocate Kevin Epling. “Two years and close to 5,000 reports filed later, we've changed the playing field and given kids and parents hope."

OK2SAY encourages confidential tips on criminal activity or potential harm directed at students, school employees and schools. Tips can be submitted by calling 8-555-OK2SAY, texting OK2SAY (652729) or emailing ok2say@mi.gov.

To learn more about the program, click here.