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Program seeing results in preventing youth suicide posted on 12/01/2019

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office has seen a promising response in preventing youth suicide through its three-year partnership with SafeOregon, an anonymous school safety tip program.

SafeOregon reported a 79 percent increase in the number of potential suicide threats reported by students between June of 2018 and 2019. This is an increase from the number of tips received during the first 18 months of the program. Tips are submitted anonymously by students on the SafeOregon website, by email, app, text or phone call.

“These tips have truly saved the lives of many students,” said Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts.

Clackamas County has the highest suicide rates in the tri-county region, with young residents being particularly at-risk according to county officials. Sheriff Roberts cites suicide as the second leading cause of death nationally for young people ages 10-24 and sees the problem as an urgent concern at the local level due to suicide rates in the county and throughout Oregon being higher than the national average.

“It’s a significant public health issue,” said Galli Murray, Clackamas County Suicide Prevention Coordinator.

The sheriff stated the issue has a statistically greater potential to impact communities in the Mount Hood area and other rural parts of the county.

“Suicide rates are higher nationally in rural areas,” Roberts said. “There are less services and more chance for isolation.”

Murray added that in addition to a lack of resources, increased access to firearms and a stigma against seeking help as factors that increase rates in rural communities. She urged people to speak out and assist at-risk individuals to prevent suicide in the county.

Sheriff Roberts suggested students have a “check-in” conversation if they encounter at-risk behavior from a fellow student.

“They could be that lifeline, that takes care of their fellow student and makes that difficult call,” Roberts said.

“Part of the problem is we haven’t been intentional about having conversations about youth suicide,” Murray added. “People don’t understand the signals that indicate a person is at risk.”

Murray stated that across the county schools have implemented suicide intervention and prevention programs to address the increasing rates of youth suicide. At the community level Murray noted the Coalition for Suicide Prevention encourages outreach and communication to eliminate gaps in suicide prevention.

Sheriff Roberts added the sheriff’s office is taking a multidisciplinary approach to address county suicide rates and has incorporated a team of clinicians in a behavioral health unit focused on individuals experiencing mental health crisis.

The CDC reports that more than half of the people who die by suicide do not have a known mental health condition.

Clackamas County Behavioral Health’s website details the warning signs for suicide as:

– Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.

– Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.

– Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

– Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

– Talking about being a burden to others.

– Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.

– Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.

– Sleeping too little or too much.

– Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

– Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

– Displaying extreme mood swings.

By Ben Simpson/MT

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