McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

December 21, 2012

Pittsburg County has the highest suicide rate of young people in the state of Oklahoma

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Authorities say Pittsburg County has the highest suicide rate of young people in the state of Oklahoma and McAlester School District is making plans to help lower that number.

 A Bully and Suicide Prevention meeting was held Tuesday at McAlester High School to discuss ways to address the bullying and the high rate of suicide in McAlester Schools.

Several school and community members were at the meeting to discuss ways to prevent bullying and suicide

At the meeting MHS Psychologist Joe Brawley said suicide is an ever growing phenomenon in the community.

He said Pittsburg County had the highest rate in the state and the State of Oklahoma has the highest rate of suicide in the entire country.

“The number one cause of death for those ages 10 to 24 years old is suicide, second only to automobile accidents,” Brawley said.

The actual number of suicides in Pittsburg County, according to 2009 statistics was 10 out of a population of 41,977, he said.

According to Brawley, that averages to 23.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

“The suicide rate in Pittsburg is triple that of other counties of the same population,” he said.

But before committing suicide, Brawley said many of those young people were bullied at school.

During the meeting, Lisa Charboneau assistant principal for McAlester High School, unveiled a new program called Rachel’s Challenge to address the bullying problem.

She said the first part of program will be funded by a grant and designed to help stop bullying and bring a positive change to the school environment. Donations and other grant money will be needed to pay for the remainder of the program, she said.

“Students teachers and community members will be actively involved in the program, and it will filter down to the lower grades,” Charboneau said.

She said the program will presented to the students and the community in January.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.