LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- For the last 30 years, Lane County’s suicide rate has exceeded the national average. The Lane County Board of Commissioners heard recommendations Tuesday on how to lower these numbers from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Roughly 80 people commit suicide in Lane County each year, and the department is projecting that number will increase in the coming years. By 2025 we could be seeing as much as a 60 percent increase, meaning more than two suicides a week in the county.
The department presented a report made up of 16 years of suicide data. Some of the more shocking statistics came from the year 2016. In that year Oregon had the 15th highest suicide rate in the country and Lane County alone had a suicide rate 50 percent higher than the national average.
The presenters said there were some specific findings that make taking action all the more important. For example, they found that Florence, Cottage Grove, and Junction City had more than twice the suicide rate as the rest of Lane County. While they are able to speculate why, they said they need to be able to do hands on work with the problem.
“We just need to work collaboratively with those communities to really tease out what is going on at that local level that has led to that issue,” said Roger Brubaker, a suicide prevention coordinator with the Department of Health and Human Services.
They also found men are nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than women, and the risk increases with age. Women are most vulnerable from ages 45-64, and men see their highest risk from age 65 on.
Brubaker said steps need to be taken to change the conversation around suicide.
“It would require a cultural shift. It would require that we talk openly about suicide, about mental health, about mental illness and how it's affecting our community,” Brubaker said.
In order to achieve this, the department recommended three things to the board. First, they asked for a consistent review of suicides in youth with an emphasis on prevention. Second, they'd like to see the formation of a suicide fatality review team to really dig into the trends of each individual death. Lastly, they asked for a thorough read of their full report coming out in August.
“What we end up creating is a community that's safer from the effects of suicide, and that's simply a wonderful thing,” Brubaker said.