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News Release
Oregon youth suicide data shows action needed to close equity gaps - 07/09/24

July 9, 2024 

Media contact: Dean Carson, 503-348-9233, dean.carson2@oha.oregon.gov 

Oregon youth suicide data shows action needed to close equity gaps 

Despite culturally responsive suicide prevention efforts, racial inequities remain 

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available 24/7. Call or text 988 or chat online at 988Lifeline.org. Specialized support is also available through the Veterans Crisis Line (press 1 or text 838255), in Spanish (press 2 or text “AYUDA” to 988) and for LGBTQIA2S+ youth and young adults (press 3 or text “PRIDE” to 988). 988 is also available for individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing through American Sign Language videophone services.  

Salem, Ore.—Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan (YSIPP) annual report, which contains new analysis of 2022 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) death by suicide data, shows the risk of youth suicide continues to be a concern in Oregon, particularly for youth of color. 

In 2022, the most recent year of finalized data from the CDC, 109 Oregon youth ages 24 and younger died by suicide, Oregon’s first year-to-year increase since 2018. Despite the 2022 increase (up from 95 deaths in 2021), there were 16% fewer youth deaths in 2022 compared with a peak of 129 deaths in 2018. Moreover, preliminary data, which will not be finalized until spring 2025, suggest that 2023 will not see a further year-to-year increase in youth suicide rates. 

The 2022 data show that Oregon had the 12th highest youth suicide rate in the U.S. Suicide remains the second-leading cause of death in Oregon among this age group.  

The YSIPP annual report also highlights Oregon’s investments in this area, including support for statewide programming in youth suicide prevention, intervention and postvention services. The report details important advances in youth suicide prevention in Oregon, such as the addition of 343 suicide prevention trainers in the state, including 67 who speak languages other than English.     

In a letter to Oregonians accompanying the report, OHA Behavioral Health Director Ebony Clarke notes, “We have made some progress to create a system of suicide prevention that is better connected and better resourced. Yet, the tragedy of youth suicide remains. We need to do more, particularly for young people of color.”  

Data highlighted in the report show that stark racial disparities remain, both in Oregon and nationwide. Oregon deaths by suicide for youth identified as white have decreased overall since the overall peak in 2018, but the number of suicides for youth of other races and ethnicities either remained similar to 2018 or have increased.  

OHA’s suicide prevention team, along with the hundreds of suicide prevention trainers, advocates, community members and champions around the state, including the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide, are working to implement key initiatives for youth suicide prevention discussed in the YSIPP. This includes programming that supports young people to find hope, help and strength, training programs to teach youth-serving adults how to recognize warning signs of suicide, and advanced skills training for providers to be equipped to help clients heal from thoughts of suicide.   

OHA and its partners are also working hard to launch culturally specific initiatives to increase protective factors that support youth in Oregon. In 2023-24, these efforts have included: 

  • Tribal prevention programs amplifying “culture as prevention” and hosting train-the-trainers for OHA’s “Big River” youth suicide prevention programming, which is available across the state at low or no cost. 
  • Black, African and African American youth-serving adults creating and sustaining the Black Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition, which is helping to bring healing to Black communities and creating spaces for young people to gather and feel a sense of belonging. Oregon also was one of eight states invited to participate in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Black Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative Policy Academy, which was highlighted as a key “Health Equity in Suicide Prevention” strategy in the federal government’s recently released 10-year 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
  • OHA infused an additional $500,000 of funding to increase the availability of suicide prevention training and trainers who are Latino/a/x, Spanish-speaking or both. 
  • Oregon’s suicide prevention leaders are also working with Joyce Chu and Chris Weaver of the Culture & Suicide Prevention Institute, to infuse their cultural theory and model for suicide prevention into existing trainings, policies and programming. This work, which will increase attention to culturally specific risk and protective factors in Oregon’s suicide prevention efforts, is also an equity initiative highlighted in the 2024 National Strategy. 

Alfonso Ramirez, interim director of OHA’s Equity & Inclusion Division, reflected on the power of suicide prevention that centers connections to culture and belonging. Ramirez said, “Thanks to our community partners and leaders, we’ve recognized how important it is to also focus on the cultural strengths and wisdom that have been passed on for generations across communities. As we do work in this way, we experience a bit of healing ourselves.”  

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