Dear editor: Suicide walk, 50-year reunion, and sheriff succession

Suicide walk benefits training

September is Suicide Awareness Month, and we would like to bring your attention to our annual Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk that will be taking place Saturday, September 24, at Ralston Park in Lebanon.
The walk is organized by Lebanon Area Mental Health Alliance (LAMHA) and sponsored by Veterans Services Organization, Samaritan Health Services and Dala’s Blue Angels. It is free for anyone to attend, and we welcome those who have experienced thoughts of or attempted suicide, the loved ones of those that have died by suicide and community members that want to help us prevent suicide locally.
This year the proceeds, via donations, will go toward a member of LAMHA attending suicide grief group training so that we can develop and host a local support group for people that have faced the tragedy of suicide. Proceeds from our 501c3 non-profit organization are also used to support people in need after surviving an attempt to end their life or experiencing a loved one’s death by suicide.
To put this into context, according to the Oregon Health Authority, suicide is the leading cause of death among Oregonians aged 10 to 24. In 2020, the most up-to-date information available, Benton County and Linn County reported nine and 22 deaths by suicide, respectively. This is likely an underestimate of the true death rates given that it is not always clear when someone dies by suicide. These statistics are alarming and deserving of public attention.
Every person can help us to make a difference in these statistics by becoming aware of the problem, educating themselves and supporting organizations dedicated to reducing the problem. With that, we hope to see you there.
David Butler, President
Gina Miller, MD, Member
Lebanon Area
Mental Health Alliance

Returning after 50 years away

My 50-year high-school reunion brought more than 80 classmates back to our hometown for two days filled with chatting and plenty of laughs.
Some tears were wiped away as we honored the more than 40 souls who are no longer among us. The get-together offered a time of becoming reacquainted as mature adults and reconnecting with old friends. Whether we knew each other well in the past or not, everyone felt a connection and community — a closeness that came from a shared history. We survived the tumultuous times of high school and all the trials of the years since then.
Some, like me, faced difficult times navigating the teen years and the halls of our alma mater. They were often teased or felt excluded or put down. Some former students chose not to attend because the memories of high school brought too much pain or they didn’t feel close to anyone so sensed no draw to reunite.
For me, the gathering was joyful and healing. Everyone was so friendly and accepting, quite unlike the cliques and peer pressure of school days. Far removed from the judgmentalism of youth, we affirmed each other and wrote notes of appreciation for ways people had encouraged or helped us in the past. I found the weekend a rewarding experience, and thoughts of it return each day, which proves its positive impact.
If you have a reunion coming up, I encourage you to attend. Be open to new connections and renewed ones. Look for ways to lift others up. Some may be facing serious health issues or family problems. This gathering can be an opportunity to get away from the cares of daily life and enjoy both the past and the present.
Everyone at my reunion said they really enjoyed the time together and it was too short. We look forward to the next time we get together. As we get older, we appreciate the preciousness of such times. We cannot take life or people for granted. Let’s treasure the memories and the moment.
Mary Hake
Central Oregon
– Mary Hake, born and raised in Lebanon, graduated in 1972. She later earned an associate’s degree in journalism and mass communications from LBCC. She has written for numerous periodicals and appeared in a dozen book compilations. She continues to work as a freelance writer and editor.

Concerned about sheriff succession

Being a long-term resident here in Linn County, I have in the past generally left my concern for law enforcement leadership (sadly) to others who are much better acquainted than I am with those already involved in positions of leadership.
Recently, we have seen issues where law enforcement “professionals” have failed their communities greatly (Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn.; Parkland, Fla.; and recently, in Uvalde, Texas).
For many years here in Linn County, I have known that the standard procedure for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office is for the presently serving sheriff to step down a few months before the election and choose his candidate to finish out his term. Then, as the election comes around, that person is running as an unelected incumbent.
Knowing that beating an incumbent in any office is always hard to do, I wonder if this suppresses those who would try to run for that position.
This may be good for us, as it may help flow in the Sheriff’s Office (or create a good old boys club) and a new person may upset the “apple cart,” but seeing the catastrophes that have happened to communities because of the ineptness of “professionals,” I am wondering if this has the effect of keeping new ideas out or removing our choice in choosing the best candidate for the position.
It sounds to me like this year both Michelle Duncan and Jon Raymond are both very experienced, with many years on the force. I don’t personally know which candidate is the best, but I am uncomfortable just allowing the former sheriff to choose the candidate for us.
We may have put ourselves in a position where only a catastrophe like Uvalde puts us in a position where we can truly choose.
Just a thought, how important is this position to us and our children in the future.
Gary Bennett