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Preventing suicide: Oregon communities promote hope, help and healing across state

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — September was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, but the work around Oregon to prevent suicide continues, even as the state has not seen an increase in suicide rates during 2020 and 2021.

During September, multiple Regional Suicide Prevention Coalitions around the state worked with the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide to launch the “Signs of Hope” campaign to raise awareness of suicide, and promote hope and connectedness. The effort was highly successful, with 15 campaigns held around the state in Clackamas, Crook, Curry, Hood River, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Polk, Sherman, Union and Wasco counties (see photos from several events on the Alliance website).

“While the practical and mental health challenges brought on by COVID-19 and the Oregon wildfires are like none in our lifetime, everyday Oregonians and state and local organizations have stepped in to support one another and make it safe to ask for help,” says Annette Marcus of the Alliance. “The Signs for Hope campaign helps people to remember that it is normal to struggle, that they are part of a caring community.”

In Clackamas County, there were multiple Sign Rallies and commissioners held a Suicide Prevention Awareness and Mental Health Resources Town Hall. “We wanted to infuse messages of hope and connection across Clackamas,” said Galli Murray, the county’s suicide prevention coordinator. “People now have the signs in their front yards as a daily reminder that each person is valuable, that struggle is normal, and that it is ok to ask for help.” 

The Union County Suicide Prevention Coalition put together videos to encourage people to reach out for help when they need it and held “Don’t Give Up” signs in downtown La Grande. “Like many rural communities, it can feel like we all know each other and, yet, this past year has been extremely disruptive, stress levels are higher than ever, and with increased isolation people feel especially vulnerable about sharing their struggles,” said Aaron Grigg, mental health director, Center for Human Development, Inc. “It was amazing to wave signs of hope and encouragement, make eye contact and know that we were making a small difference in their lives on that day. The ‘hope meter’ in La Grande went up just a bit more that day.”

The state continues to focus on improving and expanding suicide prevention efforts. Youth suicide efforts continue to expand under the state’s Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan. OHA is currently in development of an Adult Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan to identify action steps that can be taken to reduce suicide among Oregonians 25 and older.

Oregonians are encouraged to join in efforts to prevent suicide. Creating a suicide-safe Oregon is everyone’s work. Here is how you can get involved:  

Individual level:

  • Be a trusted adult. Research shows that even one caring adult in a youth’s life is protective against suicide.
  • Get trained to recognize signs of suicide. Free Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) trainings are offered statewide. QPR is a suicide prevention curriculum that teaches individuals how to recognize someone at risk, intervene with confidence and refer them to the help they need. Encourage your workplace and your friends to get trained with you.

Community level:

Statewide level:

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please know that help is available:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 run by Lines For Life at 800-273-8255 or text “273TALK” to 839863 (text services available Monday–Friday, 2–6 p.m. Pacific Time). The Veterans Crisis Lines can be reached by calling the above number and pressing “1.” En español: 1-888-628-9454. TTY: Dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line. Text OREGON to 741741 24/7.
  • YouthLine is a teen-to-teen crisis and help line. Teens are available to help daily from 4–10 p.m. Pacific Time (off-hour calls answered by Lines for Life). Call 877-968-8491, text “teen2teen” to 839863 or chat via the website.
  • OHA’s website lists Crisis Services by Oregon county
  • The Safe + Strong website and helpline operate 24/7 (1-800-923-4357).

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