Fueled by addiction, depression and job loss, Oregon suicides are on the rise

By Kim Tobin, KTVZ.com (Central Oregon), May 2, 2013

Suicide rates are on the rise across the U.S.. and Oregon has seen an even bigger spike, up nearly 50 percent among middle-aged men. Central Oregon mental health experts say they are not surprised by the numbers, but they want to turn them around.

“To me, its like we go to more and more of them all the time,” Deschutes County Sheriff Larry Blanton said Thursday.

Blanton says every day, his deputies are swamped with calls from troubled people threatening to kill themselves.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control show he’s not the only one seeing the trend.

In Oregon, the number of middle-aged (39 to 64 years old) people committing suicide has jumped 49.3 percent in 10 years.

“Men and women who work at the sheriff’s office see more in one shift than you would care to see in a lifetime,” Blanton said. “These are things that we respond to that are pretty hard to forget about.”

Deputies train to handle crisis intervention with county health officials. And for loved ones and community members, it’s important to spot the changes that can lead to tragedy.

“Significant changes in behavior, like not being able to work any more, isolation, signs of depression, sadness, no longer engaging in activities they used to engage in,” Deschutes County health crisis coordinator Terry Schroder said.

The report shows prescription drug addiction, depression and a tough economy have been the major factors prompting people to take their own lives. The age group seeing the biggest increase is middle-aged people in their 40s and 50s.

“Losing their jobs, losing their ability to provide for their family, losing their homes,” said Molly Wells, manager at Sage View Psychiatric Center. “And because they really lived a life where they were able to provide, that’s very drastic for them.”

Health experts say it’s crucial that people ask their loved ones direct questions — even if it feels uncomfortable.

“Unfortunately, there is such a stigma related to suicide, that people then feel concerned about asking,” Wells said.

In crisis? Call 503-988-4888.

More Portland-area crisis hotline numbers are listed under the “Get Help Now” tab.  Scroll down to “Suicide” for practical, real-world tips on how to help when a person is suicidal.