City leaders unveil suicide prevention signs

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland city leaders unveiled new signs that they hope will prevent suicides in our area.

The signs will be placed near area bridges over the next few months. They read "we can help you cross this bridge" and list the phone numbers people can call if they are having suicidal thoughts and feel like they need help.

"They can actually speak with counselors who are compassionate, knowledgeable and can help them walk through the difficulties they're experiencing," said Judy Cushing, CEO of Lines for Life.

The numbers to call are 1-800-SUICIDE and (503) 972-3456, which is a new local line.

"When people call our lines they can talk for any amount of time," Cushing said. "If they need to talk for an hour, they can talk for an hour."

City leaders said Wednesday that suicide calls have nearly doubled in the last 10 years. Factors that police and Lines for Life mentioned included the weather and recession.

"There are so many people, some of it driven by economic issues, others by an addiction or mental health issues. And it is I think tragic to see so many people in crisis," said Portland Police Chief Mike Reese.

A sign is already in place near Portland's Vista Bridge.

Another objective of the new suicide line is to prevent people from calling 9-1-1 when they are having a mental crisis.

"We know that there is more that we can do to de-escalate encounters with people in these situations. Matching people in need with professionals best equipped to handle these scenarios is a first-but-important step," said Mayor Sam Adams.

"With my background as a psychiatric nurse, I know the importance of having trained call-takers counseling people contemplating suicide," said Commissioner Amanda Fritz. "This partnership with Lines for Life will assist both people who are in mental crisis and those concerned about them. By diverting calls away from 9-1-1, it will reduce the number of interactions with police officers."