In February the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that suicide was the leading cause of death among Oregon youth ages 10 to 24 in 2018, up from the second leading cause of death in 2017. Oregon is now ranked 11th highest in the nation for youth suicide death rates (up from 17th in 2017).
The change in rank is due to multiple factors: There was a rise in the suicide rate as well as a drop in the rate of unintentional injury deaths, the former leading cause. The unintentional injury category includes overdose deaths and motor vehicle accidents. While the suicide rate has increased, the unintentional injury rate decreased from 2017 to 2018.
"Suicide continues to be a concerning problem in Oregon across all age groups, including youth, as this new data confirms," said Dana Hargunani, Oregon Health Authority’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."
The 2018 CDC data is included in the 2019 Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan annual report, which was released to the Legislature this week.
Advocates and state agency staff have been working to address this growing issue and together requested dedicated funding for suicide prevention in 2019.
Governor Kate Brown included more than $6 million for suicide prevention in her budget for the 2019-2021 biennium, marking the first time this work has been funded by the state. The funding is being used to:
• Fully fund Oregon’s 24/7 Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
• Create statewide access to proven suicide prevention programming.
• Provide funding to Oregon tribes for suicide prevention.
• Address higher risk groups (LGTBQ youth, veterans, people with lived experience).
• Support school districts to create and implement suicide prevention plans.
• Fund youth peer-to-peer crisis intervention, outreach and youth development through the Oregon YouthLine.
• Add 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.
If you or someone you know needs help:
• 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 http://www.oregonyouthline.org/.
• See Crisis Services by Oregon County and a list of crisis lines on OHA’s website.