Study finds staggering suicide rate in Portland

Study finds staggering suicide rate in Portland

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by Katherine Cook, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 2 at 11:09 AM

PORTLAND -- A new study by the Police Bureau's Behavioral Health Unit showed 202 people committed suicide in Portland between April, 2011 and June, 2012.

That's nearly double the number of homicides and traffic fatalities in Portland, combined, during that same time period.

"The number of people committing suicide in our area is appalling," said Portland Police Chief Mike Reese.

Reese said the numbers were important and underline the need to continue strengthening the bureau's Behavioral Health Unit.

The study also shattered some assumptions about suicide, like the time of year when they happen the most.

"The most suicides averaged out to be in the summer months," said Frank Silva, crime analyst with the bureau's Behavioral Health Unit and author of the study.

"I thought it was going to be winter or fall because of the weather," said Silva. "I don't know why it's happening. I think that's the next step."

Officer Bill Ollenbrook has responded to dozens of suicide calls in his twenty years with the Police Bureau.

"In those instances when it's clear to you this person's intent on ending their life, it's heart wrenching," said Ollenbrook, who added that sometimes the experience can be frightening.

"You probably don't think of cops being scared, but it's a scary situation," said Ollenbrook. "You're afraid [the suicidal person] will end their life but also fearing that they'll pull the police into it and use police to end their lives."

In addition to the suicide analysis, police produced a new suicide prevention video. It shows video rewinding from a close-up of the Willamette River to the top of a bridge and eventually to someone calling a crisis hotline. The caption asks, "What if you could turn back to clock?"

Chief Reese said he hopes it encourages people in Portland to ask another question.

"Have the courage to say, 'Can I help you?'" Said Reese. "You could save their life."

Mental Health Resources:

Lines for Life

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare 

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A previous version of this story said Portland's suicide rate was triple the national average. The Portland Police Bureau's statistics were compiled from April 2011 through June 2013 and found a rate of 34.4 suicides per 100,000.

The national average was 12.4 suicides per 100,000 for 2010 alone. When averaged out, Portland's suicide rate is closer to 25 percent higher than the national average. 

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