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DHS news release

June 14, 2004

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180
Technical contact: Lisa Millet (503) 731-4024

DHS launches community meetings; focus is on preventing elder suicides


A series of six community meetings to focus on preventing suicides among older Oregonians is being launched this month by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS).

“Elder suicide is an issue seldom discussed,” said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in DHS. “Yet, more than 100 of our older residents take their lives every year. These deaths touch many Oregonians, because they are our parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. Fortunately, many of these deaths are preventable.”

Kohn said the meetings, set for Baker City, Bend, Eugene, North Bend, Portland-metro and Rogue River, will raise awareness and provide direction and input into how to implement key prevention concepts. The complete meeting schedule is at the end of this news release.

“Elder suicide can be the result of depression and other serious issues many seniors face,” Kohn said. “Our statewide plan will be based on prevention research and thoughts from community members. They will be asked to provide input on how recommended prevention practices can be integrated into existing systems of service and care.”

Kohn says that Oregon’s suicide rate among the elderly is higher than the national rate. Data from 2003 compiled by DHS show that:

  • Eighty-six percent of elder suicides occurred among males.
  • Ninety-nine percent of elder suicides occurred among whites.
  • Aging white men had a 10 to 15 times greater suicide rate than that for women.
  • As men age, the death rate by suicide increases dramatically from 38 suicides per 100,000 in the 65-74 age group to 109 suicides per 100,000 inthe 75-84 age group.
  • Among women in the 65-74 age group, the rate is 3.3 suicides per 100,000 and among women in the 75-84 age group, the rate is 7.3 suicides per 100,000.
  • Firearm was the method of death in 78 percent of elder suicides, used in 86 percent of male and 29 percent of female suicides.
  • Depression was reported in 50 percent of male suicides; of those only 20 percent were receiving treatment. Among women, reported depression was 61 percent but 54 percent were receiving treatment.
  • Forty percent of men and six percent of women had visited a physician in the 30 days prior to their deaths.
  • Declining health was noted among 60 percent of men and 41 percent of women.
  • Loss of autonomy was documented among 40 percent of men and 18 percent of women.
  • Chronic pain was identified among 28 percent of men and 6 percent of women.
  • Isolation or living alone was documented among 26 percent of men and 41 percent of women.
Local organizers are convening the meetings in partnership with DHS. For more information about the statewide elder suicide prevention plan, call Lisa Millet, injury prevention manager in DHS at (503) 731-8597 or Lisa.M.Millet@state.or.us. Information is also available on the Web.

Community Planning Meeting Schedule

Rogue River: June 16 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Rogue River Community Annex, 136 Broadway. Local contact is Gary McConahay (541) 474-5365 x2032.

North Bend: June 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the DHS Seniors and People with Disabilities office conference room, 3030 Broadway, North Bend. Local contact is Dianne Devilliers (541) 756-2020.

Portland-metro: June 23, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at DHS East Multnomah Senior and Disabled Services office in the Sharon Kelley conference room, 600 N.E. 8th Street in Gresham. Local contact is Judy Strand (503) 661-5455.

Eugene: June 25 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Lane County Mental Health, 2411 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.(across from Autzen Stadium) in the Michael Rogers room #198. Local Contact is Al Levine (541) 682-7520.

Bend: July 14 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 at Deschutes County Mental Health, 2577 NE Courtney Ave. Local contact person is Tim Malone (541) 385-1746.

Baker City: July 20 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 pm at Community Connections, 2810 Cedar St. Local contact person is Mary Jo Carpenter (541) 523-6591.