State Of Despair: Suicide Rates Remain High In Oklahoma

May 1, 2018

Amid the celebrations and self-help resolutions, 2017 began in Oklahoma as it has in many other years: with a rash of people taking their own lives.

In the first week, there nine self-inflicted gunshot deaths, four hangings and a deliberate drug overdose, occurring in cities large and small. With those 14 deaths, the year was off to a familiar tragic start in a state that perennially ranks among the 10 worst in the nation in suicide rates.

In 2016, 822 people killed themselves in Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That equated to an age-adusted rate of 21 suicides per 100,000 population, ranking Oklahoma 8th worst in the nation. The national rate was 13.5.

The litany of lost lives ticked on steadily in 2017, with the latest count at 743; it will likely climb as more suicides are confirmed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Of the roughly 750 suicides counted so far in 2017, nearly six out of 10 involved firearms. More than three-fourths of the dead were men. More than eight out of 10 were white.

Grief from suicide unfolds in private. Even as taboos fall on discussing substance abuse, mental illness and other problems that once were strictly off limits, suicide remains in the shadows, whispered among surviving loved ones but rarely acknowledged publicly.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at

News media are reluctant to report suicides partly because they fear that publicizing them could lead to others taking their own lives.

This table from Oklahoma Watch is intended to show how frequent and widespread suicide is in Oklahoma, and to raise awareness about a preventable problem.

If you feel suicidal or know someone who does, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for help.