School district hosting suicide prevention speaker

Ponca City Now - January 18, 2016 2:10 pm

Ponca City Public Schools will be hosting Dr. Kym Puga to speak to secondary school students, staff and parents about suicide prevention.

Puga will meet with East Middle School students at 9 a.m. Jan. 26 in the Ralph Lester Auditorium. She will meet with West Middle School students at 2 p.m. that same day.

Puga is scheduled to meet with Po-Hi students on Jan. 27. She will meet with freshman and sophomores at 9:45 a.m. and juniors and seniors at 12:15 p.m. in the Howell Auditorium.

She also will speak to parents at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at the West Middle School Auditorium. All parents are encouraged to attend this meeting.

Puga is on a mission. Since her daughter’s suicide in 2012, Puga has advocated for suicide prevention education and reform in school systems. During the month of September, which is designated as National Suicide Prevention Month, Puga shared her powerful message with mental health professionals, educators, first responders, middle school and high school students, youth groups and concerned citizens.

“We have to do something,” she said. “We can’t have any more kids dying, so I am on a mission to save all these kids.”

In a television interview with CBS News Channel 7 in Crane, Texas, Pugh said "Educating students and faculty and raising awareness is the only way we are going to end this tragedy.”

With a doctorate in education administration curriculum supervision, Puga reflects on how she never received any training about suicide.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the third leading cause of death for 10- to 14-year-olds. Why didn’t they teach me this?” Puga asked.

“Our goal is that ‘Because of Hanah’ there will become a federal law mandating suicide awareness and prevention training and curriculum in all public schools throughout the country," she said. "The mandate should enforce that not only administrators and educators are trained, but that students are trained as well so they can recognize signs in their peers.”

On Sept. 28, 2015, Puga presented at the 21st Annual Zarrow Symposium hosted in Tulsa. While sharing her message with some of the state’s top mental health professionals, she received feedback from numerous students in post-graduate studies affirming that even in the industry designed to treat suicidality, there is little to no training on the facts about suicide.

Locally, Puga’s message was the catalyst for a United Way grant received by Youth and Family Services of Washington County.

“We have so many individuals who are struggling right here at home,” said Stella Shoff, chairman of the Washington County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

“This grant provides minimal funding allowing for evidence-based best practices assessments to be provided to those who need help and are uninsured,” she said.

The grant, a legacy of loss, is titled “Because of Hanah.” Although the funds are minimal, "if we can save just one life, it is well worth it,” Puga said.

Following Puga’s presentation at a Texas Mid-High, she received the following private message through social media.

“Everything you said was meant for me. I had a plan to end my life today when I got home from school. After seeing how hurt you were from your daughter’s death, I couldn’t do it. You saved me.”

Through Puga’s Facebook memorial page, www.facebook.com/hanahsrestlesssoul , thousands who are struggling have been reached with a message of hope and inspiration. For those experiencing the grief of suicide loss, messages of solace and comfort have been shared.

Recently they launched the website www.becauseofhanah.org .

“I’ve reached out to people around the world. I’ve shared with moms from Africa to Japan. You see, when it comes to this type of horrific grief, it is easy to bond deeply with folks you have never even met and who live on the other side of the world,” Puga said.

On Sept. 2, a night when Puga was riddled by insomnia stemming from her traumatic grief, she created a “notecard” social media video. “I was really just playing around with the concept. I sent a really rough draft of the video to a friend for her feedback and without me knowing it, she uploaded the video,” Puga said.

The video, featuring original music by Hanah, went viral with over 40,000 views in just a few days — and more than 56,000 total.

“My baby’s dream finally came true. She got to perform her music to an audience that would’ve filled a stadium. I only wish she were here to see it,” Puga said.

 

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