PORTLAND, Ore. — Published CDC statistics saw Oregon rise to the nation's ninth highest suicide rate over 2019, but deaths among young people actually declined for the first time in several years.
Oregon was 17th in the nation for suicide deaths in 2018, and 15th the year before that, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Federal data logged 906 deaths by suicide in 2019, or a rate of 20.4 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 844 deaths in 2018 and 825 in 2017.
"The 2019 change in ranking is due to several factors, including a 2.1% decrease in suicide deaths nationwide and increased suicide rates in Oregon," OHA said in a statement.
Despite the overall bad news regarding Oregon's rate of suicides in 2019, the data for youth looked more promising. The rate of suicides for people between the ages of 10 and 24 decreased for the first time since 2015. However, Oregon remains 11th highest in the nation for youth suicide deaths.
“Every loss to suicide is a tragedy,” said Dr. Dean E. Sidelinger, health officer and state epidemiologist at Oregon Health Authority. “Our state has done a tremendous amount of work in suicide prevention in the past two years, including launching new programs that provide emotional support for COVID-19 concerns."
The state of mental health has increasingly become another battleground in the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly concerning young people kept away from schools by coronavirus restrictions. In spite of that, the OHA claims that the youth suicide rate looks to have "decreased again" in 2020 based on preliminary data, which has yet to be finalized by the CDC.
"While it appears that Oregon has not seen increased deaths by suicide linked to the pandemic in 2020, Oregon’s rates of suicide in recent years are still concerning," Sidelinger continued. "After all, Oregon remains above the national average for suicides, and above average for youth age groups as well.”
There were about 90 fewer suicides across all ages in Oregon throughout 2020 over the year prior, according to the preliminary data, and 28 fewer than in 2018. Suicide-related visits to emergency rooms and urgent care clinics also appear to have plateaued over the past several months, OHA indicated.
"Call volume to Lines for Life, a regional substance abuse and suicide prevention nonprofit that operates several crisis helplines, has increased annually since 2016," OHA continued. "There have been no increases in call volume beyond what’s expected, and of the crisis calls staff answer, roughly the same percent of callers reported thinking about suicide in 2020 as those who did in 2019."
Efforts to combat suicide and provide greater support are underway and will increasingly come to fruition over the next several years. A bill passed in 2019 established a Youth Suicide Prevention program that is now available in schools statewide, and a new program focused on preventing adult suicide is set to roll out this fall.
Congress passed a bill to establish a three-digit National Suicide Prevention hotline, and Oregon received a grant to help set up the necessary infrastructure. OHA says that it also received federal funding to provide safer and more specific suicide care for adults 25 and older through the Zero Suicide Initiative model.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please know that help is available:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 run by Lines For Life at 800-273-8255 or text “273TALK” to 839863 (text services available Monday–Friday, 2–6 p.m. Pacific Time). The Veterans Crisis Lines can be reached by calling the above number and pressing “1.” En español: 1-888-628-9454. TTY: Dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255.
- YouthLine is a teen-to-teen crisis and help line. Teens are available to help daily from 4–10 p.m. Pacific Time (off-hour calls answered by Lines for Life). Call 877-968-8491, text “teen2teen” to 839863 or chat at oregonyouthline.org.
- See Crisis Services by Oregon County and a list of crisis lines on OHA’s website.
- The Safe + Strong website and helpline operate 24/7 (1-800-923-4357). Safe + Strong is designed to support people who are facing challenges related to COVID-19 or other life stressors. Use the website as a tool to help make sense of what you’re going through and to learn more about what resources and support can help you, your loved ones, and the communities you live and work in.