We all have heard stats in the media about the increasing number of deaths by suicide in Oregon. My work for the past 18 years has been in the trenches working to prevent those deaths. There are many things that lead to suicide, but all stem from mental and emotional illnesses. Culturally, we are not good in this country at caring for our mental and emotional health. We are better at meeting the needs of our physical health. I understand this. It is much easier to fix what we can see.

However, the reality is that we can see the effects of mental and emotional ailments every day if we know what we are looking for. When we start to recognize the signs and guide that person to the right treatment at the right time, there will be an amazing shift in our community.

Each one of us can learn to recognize the signs of emotional and mental health challenges, including signs of depression, anxiety and trauma that can lead to thoughts of suicide. We can learn key words and key questions that can be used at key times to help those around us. If we all did this, the whole community could be part of the solution.

In this coming year, the Union County Safe Communities Coalition and the Suicide Prevention/Response Coalition will be partnering with schools, law enforcement, county and city officials, behavioral health providers, public health and other community agencies to provide training opportunities for all residents in Union County to better understand how to recognize and assist those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. Be on the lookout for those opportunities.

If you have thoughts of not wanting to continue your life, you are not alone. Many of us have been where you are at. Through support from friends, loved ones and professionals, there is hope and healing. We encourage you to reach out.

Even though we are physically distancing at this time, we can still reach out to one another — over the fence, across the yard, by phone, text or video.

We can show more compassion.

I heard it said once, “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” We all have troubles regardless of our situation, and sometimes it just takes another reaching out with kindness to make a difference.

Additionally, Sept. 6-12 is National Suicide Prevention Week. I encourage all of us to find ways to be more compassionate toward those around us. Chances are they are struggling. Our words will make a difference.

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased or seems related to a painful event, loss or change. Seek help by calling the Center for Human Development or the Lifeline (see numbers below) if you or someone you know exhibits any of these: talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, looking for a way to kill themselves, talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or isolating themselves, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge and having extreme mood swings.

We can all help prevent suicide.

For more information or help, contact CHD Crisis at 541-962-8800 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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About the Author

Aaron Grigg is the mental health director at Center for Human Development in La Grande. He spends his spare time enjoying the outdoors with his wife and six daughters.

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