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OR Suicide Rates One-Third Higher than National Average

September 10, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - In Oregon, more than 500 people take their own lives, and another 1,800 attempt it, every year. In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day today, Oregon Public Health has released a report that tracks suicide trends in the state over five years. It says more middle-aged women are committing suicide, although men are almost four times more likely to kill themselves than women. The figures are only through 2006 - just as the economy started its downward trend.

Lisa Millet, principal investigator, Injury Prevention & Epidemilogy, with Oregon Public Health, says money problems can't be ignored when people struggle with depression.

"When you look at economic issues as a stressor, they may not be a direct risk factor in terms of causing suicidal behavior or acute depressive bouts. They may definitely be a contributing factor."

The report cites firearms for men and poisoning for women as the methods most often used in suicide attempts, and says less than one-third of men and one-half of women were receiving treatment for mental health issues before their suicides. It recommends that more Oregonians be routinely screened for depression.

Millet says the mental health community is also rethinking the way its services are delivered, to find new ways to reach out to men - who also worry about how their employers will react.

"There's some discrimination in the workplace when it comes to dealing with depression, and men are less likely to admit that they have depression because of that discrimination. That's particularly true in the military, and there has been a lot of press about that in the last couple of years."

Dr. Dan Reidenberg, managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention, acknowledges that many people worry that they'd be intruding by offering to help someone at risk, but advises that it's okay to ask, flat-out, if they're thinking about suicide.

"It is much, much better to ask the question than go to a funeral, and it really is quite that basic. We need to help them, because if they weren't struggling with these illnesses, they wouldn't be thinking like that. And you can actually be - anybody can be - a life support for somebody."

The National Council for Suicide Prevention offers simple steps that take just a few minutes, a campaign that they're calling "Take Five to Save Lives." Reidenberg says the first step is to learn the warning signs.

The website is www.take5tosavelives.org. The report is available at www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR