One person died by suicide on average every week in Deschutes County in 2017. And the youth suicide rate in the county nearly doubled between 2000-2017.
Most suicides are among men. The construction industry had the largest number of decedents by occupation over that 2000-17 period in the county. And one-fifth of all suicides were veterans.
Those alarming statistics are just a sample from a report prepared by Deschutes County Health Services. Deschutes County commissioners are scheduled to be briefed about it Wednesday. And it comes with recommendations for action that commissioners should consider.
But you don’t have to wait for commissioners. You can do something to help. Tell Congress to ensure there is money to support the new national suicide hotline, 988.
Phone service providers have been directed by the Federal Communications Commission to make 988 the national suicide hotline number. By July 16, 2022, phone service providers are required to make it so when people dial 988 they are put in touch to the 24/7 national hotline. Unfortunately, texting won’t work. That is a clear flaw.
The national hotline can be reached now by dialing: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Not exactly as easy to remember as 988.
988 will be like 911 but for suicide prevention. For now, keep dialing 911 in any emergency. That doesn’t always connect people with the right resources. A police officer or ambulance showing up at the door isn’t necessarily the best response when someone is contemplating suicide. It might make people less likely to call if that’s what they think will happen. To be clear, Deschutes County has a much more nuanced response than that. But because not every county does is another reason why 988 being on par with 911 could be critical.
The FCC can order phone providers to make the transition. Where is the money to do it going to come from? That’s beyond the FCC’s reach. And it’s where you and Congress come in. You can call your representatives and tell them to help ensure the money is there. The D.C. office of Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, can be reached at 202-225-6730. The number for the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley is 202-224-3753. And Sen. Ron Wyden’s office is at 202-224-5244. Merkley and Wyden have been strong supporters of 988.