BUTTE — Montana continues to make great strides in suicide prevention, but suicide remains a big problem in this state.
“We still have a very important problem. We continue to be in the top five every year. And a lot of those issues are hard to change: our rural nature, our lack of a provider, the stigma — the 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 of the tenth annual Suicide Prevention Conference which brought together hundreds of mental health professionals and educators in Butte to discuss this difficult topic.
“And the more we talk about it, the more we recognize it, the better we are able to deal with it,” Rosston said.
Montana averages a dozen youth suicides per year, but 2021 was a bad year with 29 reported youth suicides. Reaching children as early as possible is important to stem this problem.
“Almost a quarter of children report that at some point in their lives they have attempted suicide or seriously thought about dying with the intention of dying,” said Janet Lindow, director of the Rural Behavioral Health Institute. .
Lisa Stroh came from Chouteau County where she works as a school psychologist seeing children in dozens of rural schools. The conference motivated her to resume her important work.
“This conference is simply amazing. I was invigorated before, but I could just start school tomorrow,” Stroh said.
One of the biggest challenges in suicide prevention is the lack of resources in the state, especially for our schools and this is something that mental health professionals say needs to be addressed.
“We just have to save lives. I mean, we can talk about mental health all you want, but the inevitable is, really, suicide and we can’t bring people back, we can’t bring kids back. We just need to reach those kids and provide them with the services to deal with those issues,” Stroh said.