Oregon sees decrease in suicide rates, still above national average

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published suicide mortality data on Monday showing that Oregon had the 13th highest suicide rate across all ages in 2020. 

That’s an improvement from 2019, when Oregon placed 9th in the U.S., but numbers still remain above the national average. 

Six other states saw a decrease between 2019 and 2020. 

“While we are encouraged by 2020’s downward trend that shows our work with partners to address youth suicide is helping in some counties, we still have a long way to go to improve outcomes among all Oregon communities,” said Oregon Health Authority Behavioral Health Director Steve Allen.

“Racial and economic inequalities impact the overall health of many of our communities and we have much work to do to alleviate this injustice. Our hearts grieve alongside the Oregon communities and families that have experienced suicide loss.”

Oregon saw 18.3 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people in 2020, with a total of 833 deaths. 

In 2019, there were 906 total suicide deaths, or 20.4 deaths per 100,000 people. 

Youth aged 24 and younger sawn rates decrease in 2020 by nearly 14%, from 118 deaths in 2019 to 102 deaths in 2020. 

The decrease placed Oregon 18th highest in the nation for youth suicides, as opposed to 2019 and 2018 when the state ranked 11th. 

The call volume to Lines for Life, a regional substance abuse and suicide prevention nonprofit that operates several crisis helplines, has increased annually since 2016. 

Roughly the same percent of callers reported thinking about suicide in 2020 as in 2019. 

It was just announced on Saturday that Lines for Life will be receiving more than $430,000 from the federal government to expand their services, including in Central Oregon. 

Central Oregon to benefit from youth crisis line funding

 

Oregon has seen a three-year decreasing trend in youth suicide numbers, which comes after years of much higher-than-average numbers. 

However, preliminary data from 2021 indicates an increase in the number of suicide across all ages combined. 

Last week, Lane County Public Health declared a public health emergency due to an increase in youth suicides since November 2021.

In response to this increase, additional resources and supports are being made available to Lane County schools, healthcare providers, and community members.

Oregon Health Authority response

Since March of 2020, Oregon’s suicide prevention team has met weekly to analyze data, plan prevention efforts, and bolster the state’s ability to respond to emerging needs.

OHA has invested heavily in several suicide prevention, intervention, treatment, and postvention programs, collectively referred to as Big River programming.

Each of the programs is available statewide, has a coordinator to support local efforts, and has seen robust growth since they became available in 2020. More information about the programming is here.

OHA also:

  • Launched the Remote Suicide Risk Assessment and Safety Planning phone line and created a tool to support school administrators, school counselors and other school based mental health
  • Created the Oregon Behavioral Health Support Line, which offers live support.
  • Developed the Youth Suicide Assessment in Virtual Environments (YouthSAVE) training, created specifically for mental health professionals who serve youth. This training equips school- and community-based mental health professionals to use virtual tools to reach youth who have thoughts of suicide. More than 700 youth-serving providers in Oregon have taken YouthSAVE since its launch in December 2020.
  • In collaboration with the Oregon Department of Education, set up a School Suicide Prevention and Wellness team to provide support to school districts for suicide prevention planning and implementation.

OHA works together with other state agencies, counties, Tribal partners, communities and advocacy groups across the state to prevent suicide in Oregon.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please know that help is available:

  • Oregon launched the Safe + Strong Helpline and website at the beginning of the pandemic to provide to support for those struggling with the loss of loved ones and lifestyle changes. The Safe + Strong Helpline, 1-800-923- HELP (4357), is available 24/7. More help and resources are available in multiple languages on the Safe + Strong website.
  • Additional resources include:
    • 24/7 Suicide Prevention National Lifeline number: 1-800-273-8255
    • 24/7 Spanish Lifeline: 1-888-628-9454
    • 24/7 Crisis Text Line: Text “OREGON” to 741741
    • 24/7 Crisis Line for Veterans: 1-800-273-8255 and Press “1” or text 838255
    • Senior Loneliness Line: 503-200-1633 or org
    • YouthLine for teen-to-teen crisis help. A phone line and a texting support line are offered through Lines for Life. Trained teens respond from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, PDT. Adults are also available 24/7.
      • Call 1-877-968-8491
      • Text teen2teen to 839863

Read full details in the 2021 Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan Annual Report.

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