HELENA – Lawmakers, advocates and survivors gathered to raise awareness about the national rise of suicide on Feb. 1 at the Montana State Capitol.
The Suicide Prevention Day at the Capitol was an opportunity for those affected by suicide to provide awareness, education and prevention information.
Due to national trends, experts say prevention is imperative. “Suicide prevention is actually really hopeful because we want to learn from our past and make a better difference for the future,” said Jennifer Preble, advocacy and policy chair for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-Montana (AFSP-MT).
Preble continued, “There’s just so much more science that backs some of the suicide prevention strategies now, and that’s where you take that kind of shift from the numbers, and the statistics, to switching over to the hopeful side, because we got amazing, amazing, results with some of the strategies that are in place and the youth mental health screening tools and varies electronic platforms, to recognize suicide prevention through artificial intelligence, like there really is an innovative hope for getting a handle on this and seeing that go the other direction.”
The issue briefing held at the Capitol aimed to build support for HB 187 which tackles youth suicide prevention grants. House bills 187 and 186 are sponsored by Montana Representative Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, and would appropriate $1.6 million to DPHHS for youth suicidal prevention and establish evaluation criteria for grant applications.
HB 186, would establish more student mental health screenings, and create a pilot program to encourage and support school districts to offer optional mental health evaluations. The ultimate goal is to ensure students receive proper services and treatment.
According to AFSP, “One of the best ways to prevent youth suicide is through early detection and access to mental health resources and treatment services; screenings will increase opportunities for successful mental health intervention, well before a student is in a mental health suicidal crisis. ASFP advocates public and private activities and programs that are funded, sustainable, and effective.“
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are resources available to help.
The Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
For assistance and more information, click here.
Reporting by Christine Sullivan for MTN News