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With Montana among top states for suicide, Bozeman's Help Center urges anyone struggling to reach out

Despite the increasing rates of suicide in Montana, some organizations are trying to change the tide of Montana's limited mental health services.
Posted at 11:48 AM, Jan 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-10 21:56:29-05

BOZEMAN — As Montana ranks among states with the highest rates of suicide in the country, MTN News spoke with the Bozeman Help Center about how it's responding to Montana’s mental health crisis.

"So, if someone reaches out to us in some sort of mental health crisis or just needing mental health care, we provide ongoing crisis follow-up services," says Mandy St. Aubyn, development and communications coordinator at the Help Center.

She explains how the center can be the first line of contact for struggling individuals: "There’s no wrong reason to call us. If we’re not the right door, we’ll connect them to the right community agency, if we’re not the right one."

Johanna Bertken, student assistance coordinator for Bozeman Public Schools, gives insight into how schools have become the first line of defense in suicide awareness for youth.

"A lot of the ways our school is structured is to build in social-emotional learning opportunities so that kids have practice at facing conflict from the time that they’re young, with tools in their toolkit," she says.

From crisis response teams to mental health education, schools are trying to have difficult conversations on suicide early on.

"Research says that the most open we can be and honest with kids about mental health, the more open they’ll be to find help when they need it, and the less alone they feel," says Bertken.

In 2021 alone, 265 lives were lost to suicide in Montana, and 42,000 adults had thoughts of suicide, stressing the importance of making mental health services known and available.

"So, giving kids the tools and knowledge that not all is lost when you’re in a hard place, and there are places you can go to for help and find the support to get out of those situations delicately," says Bertken.

And St. Aubyn reminds loved ones that they can step in and help too.

"We work with people who are worried about someone else all the time, so if you are not even sure where to start, calling us is a great first place," she says.

If you or a loved one is struggling, you can reach out to the help line at 988, or (406) 586-3333.

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