GREAT FALLS — Suicide and mental health may not be easy topics to talk about, but they are becoming increasingly relevant. And as we wrap up Anti-Violence Week, organizations have invited community members to speak out on this issue in what they say has become more important than ever.
NoMore Violence Week featured the play, Every shining thing, that surrounds the struggles of life.
Actress Rosie Ayres, who is also the coordinator of the Tomorrow Montana project, explained her reasons for organizing the seminar in the form of a game.
“There’s something about the emotion of listening to music together or seeing a play that instantly helps us get to the center of what we’re feeling and experiencing, and when we do. together in the form of a game or music, we are automatically able to touch this center of emotion and empathy.
According to the 2019 National Vital Statistics Report, Montana ranked 3rd for the highest suicide rate in the nation, and for all age groups, the state was ranked in the top five for suicide rates in the nation over the past few decades. Reasons can be isolation, lack of resources, and socio-economic reasons, as 1/5 of children in Montana live more than 100% below the federal poverty level. (source: https://dphhs.mt.gov/assets/suicideprevention/SuicideinMontana.pdf)
“When I first heard that Montana was number three in the nation for suicides, I was shocked,” Ayres said. “And learning the reasons, it made a lot of sense, and reducing the stigma around mental health seemed like something simple that I can be a part of, change the narrative, spread the word that mental health is health, and I wanted to do part of a better change in Montana to not only change the way others think, but the policies, around what we do to make mental health more accessible.
During the seminar, many of the questions asked related to suicide and youth mental health. As suicide rates rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, organizers said awareness was more important than ever.
Tiffany Sweeney works as a school counselor for the White Sulfur Springs School District and said it has become a major concern for our young people. However, we must consider people of all age groups.
“We are a wonderfully beautiful state, we have a lot to offer,” Sweeney said. “but we can’t ignore the other side of what’s going on and there’s a lot of people feeling lonely, there’s a lot of people feeling isolated, there’s a lot of people struggling, and we need to start letting them know that it’s good to be having these conversations and that there’s help out there.”
If you are in crisis and want help, call the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text “MT” to 741 741