Suicide prevention matters every day

We join others in recognizing both the month of September as Suicide Prevention Month, and last week as Suicide Prevention Week. The messages being shared throughout social media are a true sign of how much work so many individuals and organizations have done to elevate our conversations and intentions to discuss suicide, reduce stigma and provide support within our workplaces and communities. And, importantly, to provide support to individuals encountering the life challenges that lead to it. We have all been touched in one way or another. Early in my life I lost two family members, and during the pandemic I lost a close friend: these three who died by suicide. And while it is important to create campaigns and initiatives, identify months and weeks for extra focus: it is what we do during all the other minutes and hours each day that matter. The good news is how many organizations and resources exist to support us in our efforts in preventing suicide.

First, here’s what we know from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In 2020, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34. Some groups have higher suicide rates than others. Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and other factors, such as where someone lives. By race/ethnicity, the groups with the highest rates were non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations.  Other Americans with higher than average rates of suicide are veterans, people who live in rural areas, and workers in certain industries and occupations like mining and construction. Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and behavior compared to their peers who identify as heterosexual.

Researchers have identified how rates of suicide can be higher in certain occupations due to a host of risk factors. Here in Oregon and nationally, a large effort has been made to raise awareness and resources related to suicide in construction. It is impossible for me to write this blog without honoring some of those heroes who have dedicated their passion and time to reducing suicide in construction and beyond, even though I know I’ll miss others who also deserve acknowledgement. If you are looking for a leader in this arena, I’d encourage you to reach out to Cal Beyer (National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention), Steven Frost (Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) and other training), and the Oregon Construction Safety Suicide Partnership.

Although you may have found many resources via social media and other messaging last week, here are six specific to Oregon to add to your collection.

  1. Construction Safety Suicide Partnership now has a website, thanks to support from Oregon Lines for Life and other partners, and the work of Max Margolis. The website includes the partnership’s strategic vision, toolbox talks, branding materials, flyers, hard-hat stickers and more.
  2. Lines for Life’s AmeriCorp volunteers launched a new podcast “Boom! Goes the Stigma.” This is a platform for all levels of the construction industry to discuss challenges, celebrate success, tell stories and why this work matters.
  3. Oregon Health Authority is a source of information about crisis assistance and other prevention resources. Important is to share the newly instituted 988 suicide prevention crisis line among your community, organization and employees.
  4. Suicide Prevention Resource Center – Oregon contacts. Here one can find specific Oregon contacts including the state Youth Suicide and Intervention Coordinator, along with other resources.
  5. Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide’s purpose is to reduce youth suicides in the state of Oregon. Alliance members are appointed by the Oregon Health Authority to develop a public policy agenda for suicide intervention and prevention across agencies, systems and communities.
  6. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Oregon Chapter’s mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Join them for the Out of the Darkness Walk this weekend.

While we can appreciate and be relieved that so many individuals and communities are talking and working together toward prevention of deaths by suicide, it is up to each of us to do our part to support the effort.