Over the past month, more than five suicide attempts made headlines by their public presence (ie, on bridges, in parks). Last year, Portland police and firefighters responded to 198 suicides and attempts. So far this year, they've already dealt with 214 suicides. And the numbers continue to grow.
Just this morning, during Portland Police Bureau's press conference on the city's uptick in suicides, officers responded to a potential suicide on an I-205 overpass.
"It's the white elephant in the middle of the living room that no one wants to talk about," said Portland Fire & Rescue's Paul Corah. "But it's crucial we do."
PPB's Robert King went on to stress the importance of suicide prevention resources, connecting the issue to his own career. Each year, he said, 300 police officers commit suicide nationally — a higher number than any other work-related police deaths.
The conference also highlighted Oregon Partnership's work with suicide prevention. "Suicide stems from treatable things that could happen to anyone," OP's Tom Parker said. " There's just such a stigma built around it in our society."
So why the uptick? Parker turns to the economy. "We know the ongoing depth and length of the economy is key problem," he said. "And mental health care cutbacks don't help." Last month, Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to cut $5.56 million from county mental health services. While the state returned $4.7 million, the cut still hurts. For now, the police rely on "spreading the word" about suicide prevention resources — but will that be enough?