GREAT FALLS — September is Suicide Prevention Month, and although we’re less than a week away from the end of the month, that doesn’t mean that the issue of suicide and mental health has ceased to be important.
According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Montana has ranked in the top five for suicide rates in the country for the past 30 years.
In a 2020 report from the National Vital Statistics Report, Montana has the third highest suicide rate in the nation (300 suicides for a crude rate of 25.9). Firearms (62%), suffocation (20%) and poisoning (9%) are the most common means of suicide in Montana.
Other ways include carbon monoxide, overdoses, motor vehicle accidents, and jumping from heights.
Julie Prigmore is Director of Recovery Services at Many Rivers Whole Health. She said the health clinic deals with people who engage in suicidal thoughts or actions. She discussed some of the causes they noticed.
“A lot of the common causes are social isolation, social disorganization, and usually that’s pretty big, but sometimes it’s extremely subtle,” she said. “One thing we want to avoid is saying you’re just looking for attention.”
She noted that alcoholism and major depression are what they tend to see in their clients.
Julie said: “Depression is treatable. 86% of people who take therapy and medication can recover from depression and feel better. The statistic drops to 40-70% if they do not seek intervention. L “alcoholism is treatable. We have addiction programs. . Once you treat both, things will go in a more positive direction.”
Julie added that there can be a stigma when it comes to discussing suicide or mental health.
Julie said: “I think it’s a combination of stigma, lack of understanding and fear that with the stigma of people, especially in Montana, we want to pull our boots up, you know, take care of it. , be on your own, kind of get over that, get over it, and there’s kind of a weakness, like when you ask for help, which you don’t.”
Diane Stinger is the president of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Great Falls and discussed some of the clues to recognize if someone is suicidal.
Stinger said: “People who have suicidal thoughts may have verbal cues like ‘I don’t think I can live anymore’, ‘I don’t want to live anymore’, ‘I wish I could die’, ‘I should die’.” , things like that. They might have behavioral issues, and sometimes you might not notice the signals.”
The DPHHS noted that in Montana, from 2011 to 2020, the youth suicide rate (ages 11-17) is 11.9/100,000. This is more than double the national rate for the same group. of age (4.98). In 2020, 62% of youth suicides were by firearm.
When speaking with Great Falls Public Schools Mental Health Coordinator, Andrea Savage, she noted a disturbing statistic regarding the three high schools – Paris Gibson Education Center, CMR High School and Great Falls Highschool.
Savage said: “We’re seeing more teenagers thinking about suicide, more teenagers who are sad, depressed and with anxiety. It affects their ability to function in their schools, it affects their relationships and the dynamics of their families. We have a youth risk behavior survey that we are conducting in collaboration with OPI. What we found locally is that 46% of our high school students, Paris, Great Falls High, CMR, had thought about suicide and 11% had attempted suicide.
She added that the numbers were also high in colleges, with 34% saying they felt sad or hopeless on any given day. It is estimated that 11% of these children attempt suicide.
Andrea said there are a variety of reasons why these kids are contemplating suicide, but some common themes she’s noticed are that it has a lot to do with perception, with social media playing a major role. She added that relationship conflicts can also have an impact as well as a kind of black and white thinking, a mentality where they feel like nothing will get better.
She noted that there are various support systems that she and Great Falls Public Schools have developed to deter this type of behavior.
Savage said: “Kids talk to kids, they don’t go to adults, so we really looked at the systems in place to support teenagers. What we’ve developed is a peer mentorship model. There’s a licensed therapist who facilitates the group, and we school counselors, school psychologists, and what we do is train children in mental health first aid They may not be your most popular children, but they are approachable and non-judgmental We spend an hour a week on what to look out for when it comes to anxiety and depression in your friends, then we give them types of first aid to help the situation. Obviously they come to me, and we have six other licensed therapists in our school district as well as collaborations with outside providers.”
Savage said suicide is preventable in most cases, adding that it’s just a matter of taking action when the time is right. “It’s really about normalizing these topics around suicide and normalizing,” Savage explained. “Everybody feels anxious. Everybody feels sad. What are you going to do and what kind of resources can we hook you up to? You just have to really train them and train our teachers on what you can do in the moment.”
“It’s really about normalizing these topics around suicide and normalizing,” Savage explained. “Everybody feels anxious. Everybody feels sad. What are you going to do and what kind of resources can we hook you up to? You just have to really train them and train our teachers on what you can do in the moment.”
If you are engaging in suicidal thoughts or actions, here are some free, 24/7 resources to help you:
- National Suicide Lifeline: call or text 988
- Text MT to 741-741
- Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-Talk (8255)