My Dear Community,

Death by suicide in on the rise in Oregon. Yet people aren’t talking about shame as one root cause for the pain that can lead to suicide.

I was stunned when I saw the Oregonian’s front page headline: Shining a light on suicide in Oregon.

“Breaking the Silence” is a statewide media collaboration aimed at putting a spotlight on the public health crisis of death by suicide.” It runs April 7-14, 2019.

Coincidentally, I’d contacted Tammy Hernadez the AMNW producer. I shared with her the profile of those at risk for suicide and the “How’s Your Grief?” Scale. I’m a scheduled guest for the show on April 11th which airs during the “Breaking the Silence” campaign.

Some highlights from Sunday’s article:

  • “Oregon’s suicide rate has been higher than the national average for the past three decades. More than 800 people killed themselves last year in Oregon.
  • The problem affects everyone.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people. People 25 years and older account for 90 percent of Oregon’s suicides.
  • Most suicides are men, but it crosses social, economic, and geographic boundaries. The highest rates are shared by groups with deep historical and cultural differences- white men and Native Americans. One in every five suicides is a veteran.
  • These statistics highlight the longstanding and perplexing pattern of higher suicide rates in the West.”

Research continues

Carolyn Pepper, a Wyoming researcher, is studying suicide in the West. In some rural areas, people are often influenced by a culture of pathological self-reliance and stoicism.

Pepper says, “Rugged individualism is a belief that you should be able to solve your own problems, but if you can’t, then you’re left without a second option.”

Seasonal patterns are confounding as suicide rises in the spring and peaks in August.

Perry Renshaw of Salt Lake is looking at the correlations between altitude and depressive episodes. He’s continuing brain imaging studies about how the brain uses energy to navigate the challenges of mental disorders. It turns out that thinner air causes oxygen deprivation. Oxygen is required as the first step in making serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. And low levels of serotonin are linked to depression.

Suicide is complex

 “Suicide is complex,” says Ellen Stout, director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center in Massachusetts. “There’s no one cause or factor that can explain the higher rates in Western states.”

“That applies to prevention as well,” she said. “What we do know, it takes multiple strategies working together.”

No one wants to die

 “We’ve gotten to the place where we know there are solutions,” says Trena Anastasia, a suicidologist in Colorado. “No one really wants to die. They really want to escape the pain they’re in. One of the first things we want to do is make it OK to seek help.”

Gun ownership is a strong predictor of suicide.

The Gun Violence Prevention Conference 2019: from Columbine to Parkland took place this last weekend. Denver, CO. hosted the conference which focused on gun education. Penny Okomoto, Director of Ceasefire Oregon, coordinated the event.

The study of this disease is still in its infancy.

Garrett Lee Smith, the son of U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, died by suicide. Funding by the family has increased grants for research. is an organization dedicated to reducing suicides. They especially focus on patients in the care of behavioral health agencies.

What I noticed

 As I’ve read and studied, I noticed that none of the articles or websites talks about shame as a root cause for pain. Nor is “touch” offered as a possible solution. I’ve contacted Joan Asarnow, PhD and UCLA researcher. She’s listed on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website. I’m participating in her 90-minute interview.

Stay tuned. More to be revealed.

In the meantime, go here and watch the AMNW segment on KATU TV

Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,