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MT Youth Suicide Rate Twice the National Rate

The rate of suicide for Montana children ages 10 to 17 is more than double the national rate, and young people in Montana are most likely to kill themselves with guns. Credit: Montana Kids Count.
The rate of suicide for Montana children ages 10 to 17 is more than double the national rate, and young people in Montana are most likely to kill themselves with guns. Credit: Montana Kids Count.
May 7, 2015

HELENA, Mont. – The rate of suicide for Montana children ages 10 to 17 is more than double the national rate, and young people in Montana are most likely to kill themselves with guns.

A new report from Montana Kids Count delves into the statistics and makes the case for more education and prevention.

Karl Rosston, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), says that means recognizing warning signs and risks such as feelings of hopelessness, being a burden to others and talk about not being afraid to die. He adds that when there is risk, homes need to be suicide proof.

"Meaning that firearms are safely stored in the house – that kids can only use them with adult supervision,” he stresses. “That's vital. And also that there's not easy access to prescription medications or old medications in the home."

Rosston says warning signs and risks merit a call to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a trip to the emergency room or quick doctor appointment, and don't leave the person alone.

Suicide isn't just a children's issue in Montana. The state has the highest rate for all ages in the country.

Rosston has found that parents of suicide victims often claim they didn't notice anything different, although peers did. He recommends that anyone seeing suicide signs, speak up, and recognize that more education is needed to equip young people with life skills.

"We really are advocating for earlier interventions as far as teaching kids as early as first and second grade coping skills and resiliency skills, so they can better deal with adversities as they come up in life," he says.

The report highlights programs developed for schools and for various communities, and points out they could be expanded.

Also, as suicide rates for American Indian children are higher than for other Montana children, the use of culturally appropriate prevention strategies needs to be expanded as well.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT