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Senior Suicide Rates Remain High in Oregon

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Despite a nationwide decrease in suicide rates, Oregon continues to rank among the states with the highest rates of suicide. The outlook is particularly bleak for seniors.

Oregon’s suicide rates have topped national averages for the past three decades. Federal data shows that those rates are highest among white men over age 70.

Sean Connolly is a behavioral health specialist with Senior & Disability Services at the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

“As people age there’s lots of different changes in people's lives," Connolly said. "From retirement, they lose a lot of motivation in their work. They lose the roles in their families. They may have been the patriarch or matriarch for a long time, but now it’s the daughter, or daughter in law or son in law coming along to take over the family.”

Connolly says mental health professionals are starting to focus on making home visits instead of office appointments. This can help seniors who have health or transportation issues that prevent them from getting out. He hopes that — and increased awareness of senior suicides — will eventually bring Oregon’s rates down to zero.