One in 5 people in Yellowstone County have considered suicide. Montana has one of the worst suicide rates among the 50 states.
Since 2003, the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone Valley has worked to help prevent suicide in our community. Our members include more than 15 organizations, plus individual concerned citizens. We work collaboratively to provide culturally sensitive education, to increase public awareness, and to foster access to available resources for anyone feeling hopeless.
One way our community can help to prevent suicide is to create connectedness. This could be as simple as reaching out to a neighbor who you have not seen in a while. It could be getting together with a small group of people who share the same interests.
“Strong, positive relationships with others can be protective and prevent against suicidal thoughts and behaviors,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Connectedness between individuals can lead to increased frequency of social contact, lowered levels of social isolation or loneliness, and an increased number of positive relationships.”
Yellowstone County organizations are working to create connections for people in at-risk groups. For example, Dog Tag Buddies pairs veterans with service dogs so that the veteran can live a purposeful and fulfilling life. Veteran’s Navigation Network, a newly formed not-for-profit, assists former military personnel to ensure smooth transitions to civilian life.
Another way that community members can be involved in suicide prevention is to attend a QPR training. QPR, which stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, is a simple way to help save a life.
QPR trains individuals to ask the question: “Are you considering suicide?” The question is followed by persuading the person to seek help. The third QPR step is making a referral or helping to find a professional who can provide the treatment needed. QPR training is available to any organization, small group or business. Training can be delivered virtually or on site in 60 to 90 minutes.
QPR training will be offered as part of the coalition’s free Sept. 17 virtual conference. Also at the conference, you will hear from more than a dozen speakers about their work to break down barriers to suicide prevention within diverse local populations. A panel of community members will discuss efforts to make suicide intervention strategies more accessible. We will hear how barriers affect high-risk populations, including Native Americans, LGBTQ+ people, youth and veterans.
Suicide continues to create heartache and distress in our community. Through connectedness, we can break down the barriers and prevent suicide one life at a time.
Sarah Music, president of the SPCYV and a prevention health specialist at RiverStone Health, can be reached at 247-3272.