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Let’s Talk: Oregon groups, lawmakers take on rise in suicides


State officials are working with prevention groups on ways to lower the rate of suicide in Oregon, which is high relative to the rest of the country.

Many experts and community leaders agree suicide has become an epidemic in the United States.

“Rates of suicide have been going up since the year 2000, and we’ve seen youth suicides at very young ages — as young as 12,” Patty Buehler, with Lines for Life, said at Saturday’s “Out of the Darkness” walk for suicide prevention and awareness in Bend.

A total of 781 people died from suicide last year in Oregon, which is one of the highest incident rates in the country.

“This is very important,” said Patty’s husband, state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend. “You know, suicide has really become a public health epidemic. And one of the things we need to do is bring it out of the shadows, make people more aware of it and understand where they can go to get help.”

State officials are going to look at the data to try to understand why Oregon is worse than other states, and for ways to address the issue. They’re doing this not only to create a conversation, but to aid in building connections between people who are suffering, also giving them the resources they need to get help.

“I think I’m just here to tell people depression comes in all shapes and sizes,” said suicide survivor and walk participant Kelly Harding. “It’s not something to be afraid of, and it’s something we need to start talking about.”

According to Buehler, Oregon is going to take the best practices from around the country and will incorporate them into Oregon’s public health effort.

With community walks like “Out of the Darkness,” survivors, friends, and family can gather to remember loved ones lost.

Our NewsChannel 21 team participated in this event, at which strings of colored beads represent the different ways people have been affected by suicide. Blue beads are in support of suicide prevention, and purple beads are in memory of a friend or loved one.

Conversation can mean as little as letting someone suffering know they’re not alone.

“When a loved one commits suicide, a lot of people won’t talk about it,” Patty Buehler said. “And we feel that talking about it will help bring awareness.”

Or it can as big as the state Legislature joining organizations to create suicide prevention goals.

“We’re going to bring more attention to it in the next legislative session by having a day of awareness for suicide prevention early in the session,” Knute Buehler said. “And then, really try to push legislation for more suicide prevention.”

The desire to join together to decrease suicide is growing. Saturday’s community walk drew about 300 participants, a turnout three times larger than last year, and raised nearly $19,000 for suicide prevention efforts.

By 2025, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s goal is to reduce the rate of suicide by 20 percent, and members say they believe this goal is reachable

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