BOZEMAN – Bozeman Health Pediatrics is teaming up with the Rural Institute for Veteran Education and Research, or RIVER, for a youth suicide prevention initiative. Beginning on Wednesday, Bozeman Health Pediatrics will have trigger locks available for parents and children at their clinics.

The initiative hopes to bring down the suicide rates plaguing Montana.

According to the most recent survey done by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Montana has the third highest suicide rate in the country.

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And it’s affecting children. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services reported in their most recent survey that close to 12 percent of students grades 7-8, and around 9 percent of high school students in Montana say they’ve attempted suicide in the past year.

As for the most common method of death by suicide in the nation; Firearms. But Bozeman Health and RIVER hope to change that, by keeping guns out of the hands of Montana youth, with trigger locks.

“It’s a real problem, and we just want to be sure that the children are safe,” said Dr. Pepper Henyon, a Bozeman Health Pediatrician and Immediate Past President of the Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who is leading the charge on taking a closer look at youth suicide prevention in Montana.

That’s why when RIVER approached Bozeman Health with 1000 trigger locks for distribution, Dr. Henyon jumped at the opportunity.

“Montanans love their guns, and so we want to just be sure that children are safe, and that parents have all of the knowledge they need to keep their children safe,” Dr. Henyon said.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort, but it’s also going to take a lot of awareness,” said Felipe Vonsydow, the Vice President of Education for RIVER. “That’s where these locks come into place, it really is not awareness of the fact that you hear about suicide, it’s awareness of the fact that you have a physical thing in your hand that helps you prevent that,” Vonsydow said.

The trigger locks initiative is part of the 20-20-10 mission by RIVER, which aims to get Montana out of the top 10 in national suicide rates by the year 2020.

And both parties agree that the key to suicide prevention starts with the younger generations.

“When they learn things at a young age, then oftentimes those things that they learn carries on into adulthood,” said Dr. Henyon. “They can keep themselves safe, they’re children safe, and in pediatrics we talk so much about prevention, and this truly is the ultimate prevention on many different levels,” she said.

Trigger locks are available immediately at Bozeman Health Pediatrics clinics in both Bozeman and Belgrade.

If you find yourself in crisis, call the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Reporting by Kaitlin Corbett for MTN News

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