To help prevent impulsive suicides, Susan Keys and her colleagues in at Oregon State University Cascades in Bend have developed a strategy that centers on respect for gun rights. Laura Pennavaria, chief medical officer at St. Charles Bend hospital, became interested in suicide prevention after a local teen suicide. She wanted to do more when she heard that nearly half of people go to see their primary care doctors in the month before killing themselves.
She not only took the gun conversation training, but she participated in a pilot study of the approach at the La Pine Community Health Center. People in several counties in Oregon are drilling down into the details of suicides in their area to develop more effective ways to prevent them. In , Washington County's suicide rate was hovering close to its all-time high.
A multidisciplinary team formed to ask the same question as anguished families and friends: Why? In response, they developed an in-depth analysis of each suicide and asked families for permission to investigate medical, financial and other factors of people who died. Their team meets four times a year to analyze the cases for lessons they can use to prevent future suicides.
Kimberly Repp and Charles Lovato. With more complete data, they were able to investigate and discover touchpoints where people tended go when they are imminently suicidal, such going to a budget hotel or to a health care provider, or taking a loved pet to an animal shelter. When the team identified evictions as a trigger for some, the sheriff suggested including crisis line information and a member of the mental health crisis team when serving eviction notices.
The suicide rate has dropped 40 percent since , says Washington County epidemiologist Kimberly Repp.
Roger Brubaker, suicide prevention coordinator in Lane County, hopes to develop a similar system of real-time public health surveillance. He receives immediate alerts about teen suicides, but there is a one- to three-year lag time in learning about other suicides, the risk factors, and potential ways to intervene. In the meantime, he analyzed Lane County suicides from and presented the results in a public forum last October in Eugene.
He found older men were overwhelmingly at risk and, importantly, not being reached with suicide prevention messages. And the rates were highest in the coastal city of Florence. A pilot program to identify and reach out to veterans at highest risk of suicide uses a computer analysis of their electronic medical records.
Living in the West is enough of a suicide risk factor that it is one of dozens of data points considered. In a preliminary six-month evaluation, it increased health care appointments and reduced deaths by all causes. Disabled veteran Broderick Pruitt found his own way to the Portland VA, overcoming a stigma of seeking counseling he found prevalent in black communities. The depression and PTSD that led to a suicide attempt arose not in military service, but from his rocky childhood in a picture-perfect New England town. Pruitt uses a wheelchair after developing a painful back condition working as an aid in an elder-living facility.
He has benefitted from learning a new skill set to confront negative inner voices. The weekly drop-in Wise Warrior support group is especially valuable, says Pruitt, who also credits a newfound Christian faith that sustains him. The science of suicide prevention is relatively young and underfunded. Suicide may be one of the leading causes of death in the United States, but it receives a fraction of research money devoted to thwarting other killers, such as heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases.
In , federal funding became widely available for the first time to states, tribes, and colleges across the nation to implement community-based youth and young adult suicide prevention programs. One day shy of turning 22, Garrett died by suicide in his apartment in Utah, where he attended college. The federal money to launch suicide prevention programs for youth came before any evidence existed about what worked, so people have been learning on the fly.
In , researchers demonstrated for the first time that asking high school students at high risk of suicide about their suicidal thoughts did not increase distress or suicide attempts, said lead author Madelyn Gould of Columbia University in New York.
Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith at his son, Garrett's, headstone in a small cemetery in Weston. The findings have been replicated in other populations. The results were meant to build a case for school-based suicide screenings, but Gould has heard that others have used the findings to convince reluctant human-research review committees that suicide prevention research could be done safely. In fact, suicidal thoughts are surprisingly common.
Several researchers and survivors interviewed for this article consider suicidal thoughts part of the human experience.
My First Suicide book. Read reviews from world's largest community for readers. Originally exhibited in at the Sequential Art Gallery in Portland, O. Originally exhibited in at the Sequential Art Gallery in Portland, Oregon, this Portland-based surreal fiction photo essay has it all a lost child, the Shanghai.
If people can be kept safe, they can experience transformative personal growth and find a life worth living. Every year, at least 10 million U. A total of 45 human corpses—many of them "floaters" that rise up from the depths—were pulled from Portland's two major rivers between July and July , according to the Multnomah County River Patrol. That's nearly one body a week found in the water. It's more people than die in car crashes on Portland streets annually and more than twice the number of Portlanders murdered last year. And it's not an anomaly.
In the past three years, river cops say, the Willamette and Columbia rivers have coughed up an average of 36 bodies a year. The Willamette and Columbia are among Portland's most cherished features, drawing citizens to stroll their banks, boat on their waters and, increasingly, jump in for a swim. In the summer, as sun-starved Portlanders flock to docks and beaches, more bodies bubble up than at any other time of year, according to river police.
Warmer water causes decomposing corpses to fill with gas, bloat and become buoyant—sometimes surfacing within yards of blissed-out swimmers and boaters. No national statistics for bodies pulled from water exist, but other cities Portland's size find far fewer bodies in their rivers. Pittsburgh—at the famed confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers—recorded nine drownings in its rivers last year. Columbus, Ohio, home to the Scioto River, recorded just two. Alison Osinski, owner of Avalon, Calif. The mystery points to this city's love of the outdoors and its entrenched social ills—especially homelessness and untreated mental distress.
Portland's easy river access, abundance of bridges, and weather-related highs and lows are a perfect storm for claiming lives, say police, marine experts and county mental health workers. Most of this year's dead have been ruled suicide or drowning victims, according to police and county medical examiners.
They include a year-old who vanished, a Wilsonville mom who was killed in a boating crash and a desperate man who threw himself from the Burnside Bridge. Their tragic tales touch the lives of the strangers who find them, the police who investigate, and the heartbroken family members they leave behind. And for one man—a Multnomah County River Patrol officer who hauls many of these soaked and broken bodies from the water—the deaths have become a haunting ritual. Stephen Dangler. Dangler points to the surface of his silver police boat.
He and two other cops are zipping south on the Willamette River near the Broadway Bridge on a muggy Thursday in August. It's degrees outside. Dangler, a trim, barrel-chested man with smile lines around his eyes, has just pushed the boat off a dock near a River Patrol boathouse near the Pearl District.
The police radio is silent, so Dangler takes his foot vessel on a tour of bad memories. Nearly every bridge Dangler passes under—the Burnside, the Morrison, the Hawthorne—has been the site of a recent suicide jump. Between July and July , police and fire officials responded to a total of 1, cases on the water, ranging from boating accidents to bridge jumpers, according to a report by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.
Many of those calls were benign—boaters needing help freeing their vessels or revelers cited for public intoxication. But jumpers and attempted leaps into the Willamette and Columbia rivers made up at least of those cases, according to county data. The dramatic events cause first responders—including Portland police and fire officials—to rush to the scene, Dangler says. When a call comes in reporting a bridge jumper, Dangler and his team speed to the location by boat. If the person has already leaped, they get off the boat and search the bridge for a "point of entry"—the exact spot from which he or she jumped—and mark it with spray paint.
Jumpers commonly remove their shoes right before taking the final plunge.
So cops often drop a rope down from the shoes on the bridge into the water, and begin a search for the body in a radius around that point. If conditions are safe enough—the water isn't too high or the currents too swift—a dive team suits up. Sonar technology helps them locate objects below the surface, but in the Willamette River, the chances of recovering a corpse underwater are slim.
Divers must squint through "black water," which renders it impossible to see more than a foot or two, and cope with powerful foot-deep channels and debris. They're sometimes forced to grasp blindly at what might be a chunk of trash, part of a boat or a human body. On the off chance a jumper survives the impact, he or she is usually sucked under the river and swept away by powerful currents, only to surface days, weeks or months later as a floater. It's Dangler's job to collect those bodies.
There are some things he wishes he could unsee: a woman's skull splattered against the Willamette River seawall. Gaping head wounds.
And the smell. Dangler's team fishes a body from the waterway with a long yellow pole and a coffin-shaped cage.
Smith had begun his solo career while still in Heatmiser, and the success of his first two releases created distance and tension with his band. I had everything going for me. The contract was later bought out by DreamWorks prior to the recording of his fourth album, XO. There are resources for those who have experienced such a loss or who are fearful of such an occurrence. That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? In the United States, the album debuted at number 24 on the Billboard , selling about 24, copies in its first week.
One side of the sheriff's boat folds down, making it easier to hoist a corpse onto the vessel floor, which is later scrubbed with chemical cleaners. Medical examiners also rush to the scene to gather details about the cause and manner of death. River debris sometimes cuts up floaters, but if there's no sign of bleeding, it's clear the injuries happened postmortem. If a death is ruled a homicide—as in a handful of cases in recent years—medical examiners pass the case off to sheriff's detectives.