By Anyssa Bohanan
Central Oregon Daily
The FCC has declared that statistics show suicide in the United States is a public health crisis. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports the suicide rate here is the highest it’s been since World War II.
To that end, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was in Bend today to discuss a new idea for a national three-digit mental health and suicide hotline number, similar to 911.
The democrat met with members of a local organization dedicated to suicide prevention to talk about the proposed hotline.
“We need a special line, a dedicated line, a line that ensures that never again will suicide get short shrift,” Wyden said.
A statewide study called “Breaking The Silence” conducted earlier this year reported that suicide kills more than 800 Oregonians a year.
Suicide rates across the country have risen more than 30 percent since 1999.
“I and others have led the fight to get the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a three digit number so that everybody who is on the other end of the phone and is contemplating committing suicide will know that there is somebody who will put their interests first,” he said.
Bend Police Chief Jim Porter says that mental health calls in Central Oregon often overlap with homelessness and addiction calls, and he hopes that additional resources will help those who are struggling.
“We’ve had our mental health calls double over the period of five years, just this year alone they’re trending up 17 percent of the number of calls that Bend Police have to respond,” he said. “Hopefully we can bring some federal money to bear on this and some federal resources with the one line concept of the three digit number to call for help.
“There are many gaps within our system it can be filled with the ability for someone to just call day or night to get that little bit of assistance that they need and references and follow up and we’re hoping that the Senator will bring that through for us.”