Montana’s suicide epidemic gets some help with an increase in the number of people trained to recognize the signs of someone who is contemplating suicide.
On March 27, the Montana Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is sponsoring a three-hour suicide-prevention training class at Billings Clinic. The class is called safeTALK and will teach community members how to recognize people who are having thoughts of suicide and connect them to intervention resources.
Research shows that once someone has suicidal thoughts, the risk is much higher that the person will act on those thoughts in the future.
Participants will learn how to communicate with people who are entertaining thoughts of suicide and how to provide them practical help. By being trained in safeTALK, participants will be better equipped to move past the common tendencies to miss, avoid or dismiss people thinking of suicide.
Participants will be able to apply the TALK steps — tell, ask, listen and keep safe — to get individuals connected with caregivers who can help.
The focus of the program is to teach participants to be alert helpers. An alert helper:
— Is aware that opportunities to help a person with thoughts of suicide are sometimes missed, dismissed and avoided.
— Wants people with thoughts of suicide to invite them to help.
— Recognizes when a person might be having thoughts of suicide.
— Engages a person with thoughts in direct and open talk about suicide.
— Listens to the person’s feelings about suicide to show that they recognize that the thoughts are serious.
— Knows the name and contact information of local suicide intervention resources.
— Moves quickly to connect the person with thoughts to someone who can do a suicide intervention.
The training comes as Montana continues to wrestle with one of the highest suicide rates in the county. In the past three years, at least 678 people have killed themselves.
“Suicide is the No. 1 cause of preventable death because the person who completes suicide has a treatable mental illness,” said Joan Nye, chair of the Montana Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We need to continue working to remove the stigma of mental illness.