You might notice something new in the pages of The Chronicle today. Beginning with this edition, we will now feature suicide hotline numbers on Page 4 of the printed version of The Chronicle, every week. If you’ve been following our coverage over the last few months, you’ll understand why.
By the end of 2018, Columbia County became known for having the second highest rate of suicide per capita in the State of Oregon – losing 17 members of our community within that year to what has been labeled a public health crisis across the nation.
At that time, The Chronicle took on a new strategy and philosophy in covering this issue – we need to talk about it - and we need to keep talking about it until this community knows it is not alone in this fight.
We joined The Suicide Prevention Task Force to stay apprised of the situation, collaborated in the unprecedented journalistic event “Breaking The Silence,” that brought together over 30 outlets from across the state to address the issue of suicide, and we have kept abreast of the opioid crisis. Like suicide, many believe it is a symptom of the same problem – a poor understanding of mental health, the stigma surrounding it, and the effects of trauma on the human mind.
It is no secret our community has struggled with mental health. During this year’s St. Helens High School graduation ceremony, each of the students’ who spoke delivered fearless personal accounts that touched on the fallout of mental health struggles within our youth community and honored the teachers who helped them get by.
Our local law enforcement agencies tell us of the number of mental health crisis situations they must navigate each week, bolstered by Crisis Intervention Training implemented within the last few years.
Crisis Intervention Training and trauma-informed care are now key elements in Oregon’s mental health community. Ultimately, this progressiveness is what has struck us most about Columbia County. From our collective experience in covering such issues, we believe this county is in the best position to move the needle in finding solutions to the mental health crisis, compared to other communities.
In the June 12 print issue and here online, you will find an article about the community’s latest effort to build a better suicide postvention response plan.
The Chronicle attended both to cover the training and collaborate as a representative of the media. In the coming year, we will strive to regularly cover the community’s mental health crisis from the perspective of everyone it touches.
Since the idea that community and connection is becoming more broadly accepted as an answer to poor mental health spurred by isolation, we will also strive to focus on the positive. You may have already seen some of our coverage about various community members “paying it forward.” If you hear about one we might have missed, please let us know. Let’s celebrate this community together.
In our windows, you will find the #ConnectSH lotus flower, designating our office as a safe space for any member of the community in need of one, and as a place to connect. Because, to quote the initiative’s founder, “humans need each other,” so let’s start talking to each other again.
We are dedicated to collaborating with community partners to build a community that cares, based on honest, truthful, and balanced reporting. We may post Letters to the Editor full of opinions you might not agree with from time to time, but it is there where we support the voices of our community, too. All of them. Yours included, if you wish.
We want you to know The Chronicle is here, we are listening, and we care. This is not liberal news, it is not conservative news – it is community news, and in that endeavor, we will not fail.
Join the conversation. Post your comments on this editorial at thechronicleonline.com.