SALEM, Ore. — In 2018, suicide rose to become the leading cause of death for Oregon's young people, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
Oregon now ranks 11th highest in the nation for youth suicide death rates, up from 17th in 2017.
What can I do? (Ways to help)
Join in the efforts. Creating a suicide-safe Oregon is everyone’s work. There are many projects underway in communities across Oregon.
- Be a trusted adult. Research shows that even one caring adult in a youth’s life is protective against suicide.
- Get trained to recognize signs of suicide. Encourage your workplace, your friends, your faith community to get trained with you.
- School districts are working on their suicide prevention, intervention and postvention plan, as directed by Senate Bill 52. If your school district needs support or resources, staff can contact Lines for Life at email@example.com or 503-575-3759.
- Join the Alliance to Prevent Suicide’s work.
- Attend the statewide conference on suicide prevention scheduled for fall 2020. Sign up to receive information about the conference or learn more at the Oregon Suicide Prevention website.
- Join American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Oregon Chapter.
- Join your regional suicide prevention coalition.
The CDC released the new numbers to Oregon health officials in February. The year earlier, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Oregonians between the ages of 10 and 24 after unintentional injury deaths — but in 2018, the two flipped.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, the change was due to several factors. The suicide rate did go up, but unintentional injury deaths dropped as well. The latter includes fatal overdoses and motor vehicle crashes.
"Suicide continues to be a concerning problem in Oregon across all age groups, including youth, as this new data confirms," said Dana Hargunani, OHA’s chief medical officer. "We continue to prioritize work across Oregon to support young people in schools, at home and in our communities. Fortunately, we are able to apply best practices that work to prevent suicide, and there are many ways you can get involved."
That 2018 CDC data is included in Oregon's 2019 Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan annual report, which was released to the Legislature this week.
OHA says that advocates and state agency staff have been working to address this growing issue, requesting dedicated funding for suicide prevention in 2019. The agency said that Governor Brown included $6 million earmarked for suicide prevention in the 2019-2021 budget — the first time that it has received dedicated government funding in Oregon.
The funding goes toward a number of different programs and initiatives, according to OHA:
- Fully funding Oregon’s 24/7 Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- Creating statewide access to proven suicide prevention programming.
- Providing funding to Oregon tribes for suicide prevention.
- Addressing higher risk groups (LGTBQ youth, veterans, people with lived experience).
- Supporting school districts to create and implement suicide prevention plans.
- Funding youth peer-to-peer crisis intervention, outreach and youth development through the Oregon YouthLine.
- Adding capacity to support suicide prevention programs at the Oregon Health Authority.
- Additionally, the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority are collaborating to implement Senate Bill 52 – also known as Adi’s Act – which requires school districts to have a suicide prevention, intervention and postvention response plan by the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The two agencies are also working together to support school safety (including suicide prevention), which is outlined in the Student Success Act (Section 36, pages 21 and 22).
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please know that help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline run by Lines For Life at 800-273-8255 or text '273TALK' to 839863. En español: 888-628-9454. TTY: 800-799-4TTY (4889).
Youthline is a teen-to-teen crisis and help line. Teens are available to help daily, 4 to 10 p.m. Pacific Time (off-hour calls answered by Lines for Life). Call 877-968-8491 or 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.