Hanging on Kimberly Repp’s office wall in Hillsboro, Ore., is a sign in Latin: “Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae,” meaning “This is a place where the dead delight in helping the living.”
For medical examiners, it is a mission. Their job is to investigate deaths and learn from them, for the benefit of us all. Repp, however, is not a medical examiner; she is a microbiologist. She is also an epidemiologist for Oregon’s Washington County, where she had been accustomed to studying infectious diseases such as flu or norovirus outbreaks among the living.
But in 2012 she was asked by county officials to look at suicide. The request introduced her to the world of death investigations and also appears to have led to something remarkable: in this suburban county of 600,000, just west of Portland, the suicide rate now is going down. That result is remarkable because national suicide rates have risen, despite decades-long efforts to reverse the deadly trend.Suicide Prevention There Is No Perfect Place But Lots of Places That Will Work