Although Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month is nearly over, efforts to prevent the increasing rates of suicide in Clackamas County continue to be a priority for a number of local organizations and advocacy groups 24/7, 365 days a year.
Galli Murray, suicide prevention coordinator for the county, presented on the topic to county commissioners on Thursday, detailing statistics, common risk factors and what is being done locally to help reduce suicide rates and create space for community support.
In Clackamas County, Murray said, deaths from suicide have continued to increase over the last decade, especially among residents aged 45 to 64. There were 79 county residents who died by suicide last year, compared to 54 in 2018 and 68 in 2019.
"What we know about the specific data over the past 10 years is that the 45-to-64-year-old age range are the folks that are dying the most in our community, followed by the 25-to-44-year-olds, followed by the 65-year-old and older, followed by the 10-to-24-year-old age range, which is dying the least amount in our community." she said.
According to Murray, several factors can lead individuals to try and end their lives and it rarely occurs because of one isolated reason.
"Suicide attempts rarely occur out of the blue," Murray said. "At the moment when someone takes action is oftentimes during a brief period of heightened vulnerability."
Murray said that past studies have shown that period of vulnerability leading an individual to end their life can be as short as one hour.
"There's a study that was done quite some time ago nationally that says 70% of people who took action to try and end their life made the decision and acted upon that step in 60 minutes or less," Murray said.
She added that risk for suicide increases when an individual has access to firearms, perscription pills or other lethal means and putting distance between these things and the individuals experiencing suicide ideation can save their life.
As this issue has increased countywide, institutions such as juveline departments, law enforcement agencies, domestic violence agencies and others have ramped up commitments to training staff in suicide prevention, Murray said.
"They know that risk of suicide is high for individuals who have contact with these particular systems," Murray said, adding that the Lake Oswego Police Department "took their police force offline for two days to send them through assist training, which is the gold standard for suicide prevention training."
"They truly believe that part of their role as first responders is to identify signs and symptoms of folks who might be struggling to get them help when they need it," Murray said, adding that schools have ramped up efforts as well.
"Each of our 10 school districts will train all staff — I will emphasize that again — each of our 10 school districts will train all staff in suicide prevention, as well as develop a suicide prevention, intervention and prevention protocol," she said.
Several resources are available in Clackamas County for anyone experiencing suicide ideation themselves, or who has been impacted by suicide in any way, including the Suicide Prevention Coalition, which Murray described as "a community-driven group of individuals, professionals, suicide loss and attempt survivors and others."
Efforts of the coalition include a suicide fatality review launched in May in partnership between the county's Health, Housing and Human Services Division and the state Medical Examiner's office.
"This review happens after someone has died. We get permission from next-of-kin to gather this information and we take a deep-dive into the system barriers for folks to access and care that may have contributed to their deaths from suicide," Murray said, adding that other efforts include post-prevention for people who may be at higher risk of attempting suicide due to knowing someone who took their own life, as well as community support spaces and free mental health clinics through the Behavioral Health Division.
In conclusion, Murray asked commissioners for their continued intention and support as leaders, adding that decreasing suicide rates must not only be the responsibility of mental health professionals, but the community at large.
See below for a list of resources related to suicide prevention and mental health support.
Clackamas County Crisis Line
Provides 24/7, free, and confidential support.
Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741 24/7 crisistextline.org/texting-in
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Text: teen2teen to 839863
Senior Loneliness Line
The Trevor Project Suicide Prevention Lifeline for LGBTQ youth
Trans Lifeline's Peer Support Hotline
Veterans Crisis Line
1-800-273-8255 press #1
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