Suicide Rates In Oklahoma Spike Due To COVID-19


Sunday, July 26th 2020, 4:28 pm
By: Brooke Griffin


TULSA, Okla. -

Tulsa mental health experts said there has been a sharp increase in suicide and suicidal thoughts in Oklahoma since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

They said most of these cases have occurred among teenagers who lack the normal structure without their school routines. 

The uncertainty of the pandemic, along with everything that comes with living in quarantine, has taken a huge toll on mental health. Some have taken their own lives.

Parkside Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic Director of Adolescents Ken Moore said “90,000 people will think about taking their own life this year.” Oklahoma has the tenth highest suicide rate in the country.

Due to the mental health effects of COVID-19, Moore doesn't anticipate the state's alarming trend to go down anytime soon. 

"A lot of the admissions recently that are related to suicide are being driven by pandemic-related conflict," Moore said.

Parkside alone has seen a spike in admissions. Moore said Parkside doesn’t typically see a lot of people come in during summer months.

The Mental Health Association of Oklahoma is seeing the same upward trend. Director of Outreach Rebecca Hubbard said their call volume has hit the roof with hundreds of calls from across the state for various needs.

"We've been contacted by 38 new zip codes," Hubbard said.

Both mental health experts said people's daily routines can be what keep them stable, but the new normal is hard to adapt to when it feels like the world's current crisis isn't getting better.

Experts suggest trying to make an at-home routine that fits you and works for what you need on a daily basis.

"Exercising can be releasing. Other people need to veg and that's okay too," Hubbard said. "We have to find the thing that gives you balance and that life feeling and not that heaviness of sadness."

Moore said he knows the struggle with mental health can't be solved easily or quickly but connecting is the first step to creating wellness goals. 

"You don't have to do this alone,” Moore said. “There's hope available. Nobody has to die because of COVID(-19)-related isolation. It doesn't have to end in suicide.”

If you would like to speak with someone about mental health during the pandemic, there are several resources available. 

The Northeastern Oklahoma Help Line at 211 is available for someone to speak with about the pandemic. They also provide services such as utility assistance or food resources.

If you or someone you love needs a more hands-on approach to combating signs of depression or anxiety, they can reach out to Parkside Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic at 918-588-8888 to speak with someone about scheduling a visit either in person or through telehealth. 

Another resource is the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma. They offer a wide variation of call-in and online services ranging anywhere from depression to groups that focus on racial injustice or teachers worried about going back to teaching during the pandemic in the fall. You can find them online at mhaok.org or give them a call at 918-585-1213. They will connect you with the person that best fits your needs.