BUTTE — Montana continues to make big strides in suicide prevention, but suicide remains a big problem in this state.
“We still have a very major issue. We continue to be in the top five every year. And a lot of these are issues that are difficult to change: our rural nature, our lack of provider, stigma—stigma seems to be one of our biggest issues,” said the state’s Suicide Prevention Coordinator Karl Rosston.
Ending the stigma is one of the goals at the tenth annual Suicide Prevention Conference that brought hundreds of mental health professionals and educators to Butte to discuss this difficult subject.
“And the more we talk about it, the more we acknowledge it, the better we’re able to deal with it,” said Rosston.
Montana averages about a dozen youth suicides a year, but 2021 was a bad year with 29 reported youth suicides. Reaching out to children sooner than later is important in curbing this problem.
“Almost a quarter of kids reporting that in some point in their lives that they have attempted suicide or have had serious thoughts about dying with the intention to die,” said Rural Behavioral Health Institute Director Janet Lindow.
Lisa Stroh came in from Chouteau County where she works as a school psychologist who’s responsible for seeing children at dozens of rural schools. The conference motivated her to get back to her important work.
“This conference is just absolutely incredible. I was invigorated before but, I just, I could start school tomorrow,” said Stroh.
One of the major challenges in suicide prevention is the lack of resources in the state, especially for our schools and that’s something that mental health professionals say needs to be addressed.
“We’ve got to just save lives. I mean, we can talk mental health all you want, but the inevitable is, really, the suicide and we can’t bring people back, we can’t bring kids back. We just need to reach these kids and get them the services so that they deal with those issues,” said Stroh.