Stressed to Death; Oregon Suicides






Oregon has a unique problem which is growing–suicide rates.

For years, Oregon has ranked between seventh and ninth in the country for suicides. In 2011, 685 Oregonians killed themselves, twice the number who died in vehicle crashes and six times the homicide rate. In 2012, the number climbed to 709 people who took their own lives, according to preliminary numbers. Oregon’s suicide rate has been increasing since 2000.

Experts say much of this reason stems from the number of people living in rural communities with less access to mental health care combined with the number of gun owners. In 2011, most Oregon firearm deaths were suicides (76 percent). Guns are used in suicides more than twice as often as the next two most used methods: poison (20 percent) and hanging/suffocation (18 percent). Research shows 90 percent of suicides in rural America involve firearms. A little more than half of all Oregonians who kill themselves use guns according to the Oregon Public Health Division.

Most suicides are men and the rates tend to increase as they age. Experts say some of this is due to economic instability among blue collar men from fishing and timber industries which have all but dried up.

Stress about economic well being, the ability to get a job and care for a family weighs especially heavily on men.  That kind of worry crosses age brackets and can be seen among the very young–even those in college with increasing debt and concerns about the job market when they graduate.

In 2014 the average student loan debt of graduating seniors was up to $30,000. Students are expected to find careers that will support their lives and pay this debt on a monthly rate including the interest.

The cost of student debt has a direct correlation to
the suicide rates among college students according to an article in the independent on line newspaper, “The Mint Press News.” The article says, “Tragically, the number of student loan related suicides is climbing as well. “Suicide is the dark side of the student lending crisis,” says Cryn Johanssen, Founder and Executive Director of All Education Matters. ”

The evidence of this is largely anecdotal with quotes from readers affirming that the stresses of debt and no job or under paying employment adds to their thoughts of suicide.

When discussing stress levels with an active and
academic freshman at Southern Oregon University, Jackie Carroll rated her stress level to be a 9 out of 10. She works 5 out of 7 days of the week. She is worried about getting behind, “It is hard to find study time. I do not feel I was prepared from high school at all. Sure, the reading, writing and math prep was helpful, but when it comes to managing time and the workload of school and working, high school did not prepare me at all”.

For college seniors, with graduation nearing, there are similar stresses, with an added list of many more. What does one do after graduation? How does one find a job?
How can one afford the student loan debt?

Nearly 1,100 suicides will occur on college campuses this year. Many more students think about suicide or make a suicide plan. In the past fifty years, the suicide rate for those age 15-24 increased by over 200%. About 12 people aged 15-24 will commit suicide today – that is one about every two hours.

If you are feeling stressed and depressed or know someone who is it’s important to seek out help. SOU has a program called SOU Cares. You can reach out with your concerns and access assistance for yourself or someone you know.