Suicide is Increasing in Oregon

Suicide is a taboo topic in our society despite the fact that during 2005-2010, the last years for which national mortality data are available, suicide was the 2nd most common cause in 15- to 34-year-old American males and the 2nd most common cause 25- to 34-year-olds overall.  According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among Oregonians aged 10 to 24. A CDC report shows suicides among men and women aged 35-64 increased 49 percent in Oregon from 1999-2010, compared to 28 percent nationally and 9th of all states. More than half of the suicides in Oregon are committed by firearm.

Suicide among Oregon Adolescents - The Current Dilemma

Click title immediately above to review the data and additional national data
Oregon's 10-19 year-olds are:
  Ranked 4th in suicides* and 4th in suicides by firearm among 35 states with >300,000 population in the age range
  * Sustaining a dramatic increase in suicide since 2000, that in the last decade
     - has more than doubled from an average of 20 to 40-45 per year
  * Allowing firearms to mediate
     - 54% of the suicides in male adolescents
     - 33% of the suicides in female adolescents
  * Accumulating firearms at an increasing rate
Photo from

Deschutes County Struck by Apparent Jump in Teen Suicides

Mental health providers, law enforcement express concern By Markian Hawryluk / The Bulletin / @markianhawryluk  /  Sep 7, 2014

Local mental health providers and law enforcement officials have expressed concerns about what appears to be a dramatic rise in teen suicides in Deschutes County this year.
At least five teens have died by suicide through August, representing a significant increase over average rates for the past decade. Since 2003, the county has averaged about one adolescent suicide per year, never registering more than three in any calendar year, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.
There were teen suicides in Bend in February, June, July and August, as well as a second August suicide in La Pine, according to a list of teen suicides obtained by The Bulletin.
"It's clearly a big increase," said Dr. Kirk Wolfe, a child psychiatrist in Portland who wrote many of the teen suicide-prevention materials used by state officials.
Adolescent suicide rates in Oregon have been rising, from 11 per year from 2001 to 2010, to 18 per year in 2011 and 2012.

For the full report, click the title

Suicide is a Valid Reason to Reduce Firearm Availability

By Archie Bleyer /  In My View  /  The Bulletin  /  March 8, 2014
Submitted in response to the Bend High School Suicide
To read the entire editorial, click on the title
+75 cents

Since the Newtown Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, 22 states have passed legislation to tighten gun restrictions. Oregon failed last year and is trying again with Senate Bill 1551 that would expand background checks. Basing the case on reducing homicides hasn't overcome the gun lobby''s stance of "guns don't kill people, people kill people" and "control mentally ill people, not guns." Another strategy may be to address suicide and self-inflicted harm by attempted suicide, as highlighted by the two recent public suicides in Bend, just weeks apart, by a student in class at Bend Senior High School and a young woman in Pioneer Park, both by guns. 
Oregon has the second-highest rate of suicide among all 50 states in our country, most of which are by firearm. The counties of Central Oregon are among the highest in the state. Our three counties have an estimated annual average of 30 suicides by gun, which are not made public since they occur on personal property.
Ironically, the week before the last Bend suicide shooting, USA Today reported that an average of 20 American children and adolescents are hospitalized every day for firearm injuries, another 3,000 die every year before they get to the emergency room and among 15- to 19-year-olds, firearm injuries are the second-leading cause of death. 
Sardonically, the day before our high school suicide-by-gun, Mark Kelly, former Rep. Gabby Giffords' husband, testified at an Oregon congressional hearing on behalf of SB 1551. ...
In Oregon, three-fourths of gun fatalities are suicide and more than half of suicides are by gun, as are 90 percent of rural suicides.
Worldwide, our country has by far both the highest suicide-by-gun rate and the highest rate of gun ownership. ... In Canada, Norway, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, legislation and regulatory measures that reduced the availability of firearms in private households distinctly strengthened the prevention of suicides by gun.
In Australia, a buyback of 650,000 guns and tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those weapons remaining in public hands reduced the number of privately owned firearms by one-fifth and suicides by gun by half. 
Despite claims to the contrary by the gun lobby, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was effective in lowering our country's suicide rate. Before the ban, the suicide-by-gun rate in 15- to 24-year-old males climbed steadily. Within five years of the law's enactment, the rate fell to its lowest level since 1972.
Between 2002 and 2007, our national suicide-by-gun rate was constant at an average of 17,000 deaths per year. In 2008, our Supreme Court contravened a law in our nation's capital that banned handgun ownership and required firearms in homes to be locked. Our national suicide-by-gun rate increased steadily thereafter from an average of 553 additional deaths per year to 19,766 in 2011.
Are we going to once again largely ignore a suicide among us, this time by a high school student who shot himself in class?  Our media must be able to raise awareness of the problem. Preventing suicide is everyone's business. And ignorance promotes suicide.  How much more evidence do we need?

Adolescent Suicide Attempts in Central Oregon among Highest in State

Suicide attempts in <18-year-olds reported by hospitals have the per-capita and absolute rates in Deschutes County at 3rd highest among the 36 Oregon counties.  Suicide by firearm was the 2nd most common method, after hanging, accounting for >40% of the deaths.

For the full report, click the title

Bend High School Senior Kills Self with Firearm in Classroom

At 12:10 pm on Friday, February 7, a senior at Bend High School 17 year-old killed himself with a firearm in a classroom.  The suicide apparently followed a breakup with his girlfriend, a sophomore at the school.  The Bend police are investigating and have not released further details.  About 40 students availed themselves on Saturday for grief counseling offered at Bear Creek Elementary School, 1 mile away from the scene of shooting.

Publish the Number of Suicides

By John Shepherd of Sisters  /  My Nickel's Worth  / January 4, 2014
To read the entire letter, click on the title

I enjoyed John Costa's musing on Dec. 22, about Alysha Colvin's sad and tragic suicide. An old friend of mine who is the chaplain for the Sheriff's Office told me that suicides in the county are very common. And yet this fact is kept from the public. While the public is deliberately educated about annual homeless counts, we are deliberately kept in the dark about annual suicide numbers. Why? Is it because the powers that be don't want the public to know how sick and despairing our community is? I suspect this is the reason.
I believe they don't want us asking the probing questions such as: Why are families collapsing in America? Why is depression at an epidemic level? Why are kids estranged from their parents in record numbers and husbands from wives? Because if we ask these questions, maybe we'll discover that all is not well. ... I call on The Bulletin to begin publishing the number of suicides each year. Maybe this is a problem our society can and should examine and address.

Why Write About Suicide

By John Costa, Editor-in-Chief  /  The Bulletin  /  December 22, 2013
For the entire editorial, click the title
The photo of the woman at the top of page A1 of last Sunday's Bulletin was, at first glance, beguiling. But after reading her story, it became haunting.
Alysha Sarai Colvin, 37, was taking pottery classes and loved to cook. She painted watercolor landscapes and enjoyed camping and swimming. She was most comfortable outdoors and felt a deep connection to the earth.
That was the lead line of the story that Bulletin reporter Shelby King wrote, a story whose headline read, "Body Found in Pioneer Park identified as suicide victim."
... The story described a woman who could not stop drinking, who threatened suicide, who was arrested for intoxication multiple times, who was well-known to police, who was in and out of treatment programs and whose arraignment on her latest DUII was scheduled for the day she was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in a public park.
Since that story and photo ran, several readers have asked why The Bulletin would describe the death as a suicide and identify the victim.
They are very good questions, for which, I think, there are good answers.

Tragically, there are many suicides in the communities we cover. Each one is, in its own way, unique and hard to understand. And yet each, regardless of the reasons, is a tragedy. To our way of thinking, each should remain as private as the personal torment that drives someone to such a desperate solution.
Alysha, however, chose a public forum.
She killed herself in a public park where people sit by the river, walk and have picnics.
And then, in full view of anyone passing by, the police arrived to investigate.
That, a suicide in public, met one of our guidelines.
It is impossible and irresponsible not to tell the public that this was not a murder.
A private suicide of a private person, which she was, would not be reported.
On the other hand, the suicide of a public figure has a better chance of being reported, whether in private or not, the reasoning being that this person's loss impacts the community at large.
In Alysha's case, her naming came at the instigation of her family, which believed that telling her story was an important tale for all to read.
To their great credit, they wanted to put a face on someone who challenged the community's capacity to help, or not.
And from the community's perspective, the story provided a venue for friends, acquaintances, police and other organizations to describe what they can do and what, just as importantly, they can't do.
... But as Alysha's mom, Naomi Cummings, said, "I think depression and addiction affects so many people's lives. The only way to keep it from happening is to be open and not hide it."

Oregon Suicide Rate Increasing in Middle Age Women

Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division
CD Newsletter, 58(3): February 3, 2009
For full report, click title or figure
From 1992 to 2006, suicide rates generally stagnated or decreased for both males and females of all age groups except for middle-aged women, 40 to 64 years old (Figure 2). Midlife is when most suicides occur: 44% of suicides among men, and 59% of suicides among women occur for those 40 to 64 years old. The average rate for women in this age group increased 43% from 1999 to 2006. For men in the same age group, the rate increased only slightly during the same period. The rate for men in other age groups actually decreased from 1992 to 2006.

Annual Suicide Rates among Oregon Women by Age, 1992-2006
To enlarge, click figure and read full report