News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

New data show 3-year decrease in Oregon youth suicides, uptick for adults

Recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show 2021 was the third year in a row that suicide deaths among Oregon youths had decreased.

This marks a 26 percent decrease in the number of suicide deaths among youth and young adults 24 and younger, from a peak in 2018, when 129 youth died by suicide. In 2021, 95 Oregon youth died by suicide. Suicide remains the second-leading cause of death among people ages 5 to 24.

“For too long, far too many Oregon families and communities have experienced the devastating loss of a loved one to suicide,” said Jill Baker, youth suicide prevention coordinator at Oregon Health Authority (OHA). “We hope people in Oregon hear this news as a call to action: we all have a role in preventing suicide and we can make a difference. It will take our sustained efforts as a community to ensure that this promising trend continues. ”

The CDC data also show that death by suicide among all ages in Oregon increased in 2021, with 889 total deaths. Oregon has the 17th highest rate of suicide in the U.S., at 19.5 per 100,000.

While youth suicide figures by race and ethnicity in Oregon cannot be statistically analyzed due to small numbers, national trends show significant increases in youth suicide for Black/African American youth, American Indian/Alaskan Native youth and Latino/a/x youth.

“When interpreting demographic data, it is important to remember that many of these populations have been disproportionately affected by systemic racism, social-economic-political injustices and bias,” Baker added. “These inequities can worsen health outcomes and increase the risk of suicide.”

The most effective suicide prevention is local  

Since launching the statewide Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan in 2016, and updating the plan in 2021, suicide prevention champions across Oregon have worked together and learned what it takes to support youth and decrease suicide.

OHA invests in several youth suicide prevention, intervention, treatment and postvention programs, and collaborates with other state agencies, counties, Oregon Tribal nations and Tribal partners, communities and advocacy groups to prevent suicide in Oregon. Key legislation such as Adi’s Act (2019), which requires school districts to have suicide prevention plans and added requirements for suicide prevention training for behavioral health providers, has also contributed to increased protection against youth suicide in Oregon. 

Local leaders train everyday Oregonians to recognize warning signs, help providers follow best practices for suicide care, develop and support school district and health care policies and identify local suicide prevention champions. One promising practice that focuses on building protective factors and destigmatizing mental health issues is Sources of Strength, which has been implemented in more than 200 K-12 schools statewide, reaching at least 125,000 students in 2022 with “messages of hope, help and strength.”

“Strengths-based suicide prevention is not only important for how I relate to my students, but also deeply impacts me as a parent,” said Judy Fuentes, a visual arts teacher at Sisters Middle School who went through the training. “I didn’t realize how much I needed this or how much this program was going to affect me as a person.”

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available.
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