Suicide rates spike for middle-aged Oregonians

EUGENE, Ore. - New numbers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a sharp increase in suicides among middle-aged Americans in Oregon, and a mental health report from the state shows rates are highest in rural counties.

"Isolation is a major problem when it comes to suicide risk," said licensed psychologist Ryan Scott at Vista Counseling & Consultation in Eugene. "In more rural communities, there's not only more lack of access, there's increased concerns about stigma."

A CDC report shows Oregon had a 49.3 percent increase in suicides among men and women aged 35 to 64 from 1999 to 2010, compared to a 28 percent increase nationally.

"They're losing their job, they're losing their homes, they're having chronic pain issues," said Scott. "All those things combined, and they become so desperate that they really feel that there's no hope."

A 2012 report by the Oregon Health Authority found the state's overall suicide rate per capita was 41 percent higher than the national rate. Rural counties were found to have higher rates of suicide compared to urban ones, and the most frequent risk factors were mental health problems and substance abuse.

"So we even though we have a high number of people addicted, we don't have good access to treatment," said Dr. Ronald Schwerzler at his Serenity Lane office in Eugene.

Schwerzler, both a medical doctor and addictionologist, said he often sees patients dealing with drug and alcohol dependence come to treatment with suicidal ideations as well.

"The fact that people are out there in rural areas alone without much support from people, they're more likely to commit suicide than if they were in a city with more community support," said Schwerzler.

Eugene psychologist Ryan Scott said the first step to preventing suicide is to ask the question: "Are you thinking about committing suicide?"

He said from there, the resources to get a person help are out there.

For more information on suicide prevention in Lane County: