GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The “MTN Zero Suicide Initiative” aims to tell the stories of our state and provide suicide prevention information and resources. We are teaming up with community partners who are passionate about bringing Montana’s high suicide rate down to zero.
A number of common myths surround suicide. We want to address those myths and share the facts to break down stigma.
MYTH: If you are thinking about suicide you’re weak.
“Many people are fearful of presenting themselves for therapy because of what we call an iceberg belief that if I ask for help, I’ll look weak and because of that they fear stepping forward and going for therapy or screening,” said Greg Tilton, chair of the Cascade County Mental Health Local Advisory Council Suicide Prevention Team.
MYTH: If you talk about suicide, you’ll put ideas in someone’s head.
Ostin Warren, suicide prevention team member and Great Falls Vet Center Psychologist said that simply isn’t true and that if someone is suicidal, they’re already thinking about it.
“In talking about it, it releases some of the fear and some of the tension people feeling in talking about it. A lot of people hold all of that in and keep it in, and it sort of festers and gets worse, so if you actually bring it out and talk about it, you can reduce its intensity,” said Warren.
MYTH: Suicide is just a cry for attention.
Warren explains for most people, it isn’t a game or drama ploy.
“They’re truly thinking about killing themselves. It’s a really problematic myth if you believe that someone is just trying to get attention, you’re going to stop paying attention to them and someone who is suicidal needs other people to help them through it,” said Warren.
MYTH: If someone is suicidal, you can’t change their mind.
Warren explained, “people can be brought back from suicide. People in this very Vet Center have been suicidal and we’ve saved their lives by talking it through, by addressing depression, dealing with anxiety, by dealing with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
MYTH: Montana will always have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.
“It is not a foregone conclusion that just because Montana is a rural state, with an older population and some rural dynamics that we can’t stop this crisis and move with it. There are a lot of interventions that work and we know they work and if they’re applied on a systemic level, we can reduce suicide on a statewide level,” shared Warren.
The Montana Suicide Mortality Review Team complied information over a two year time span, during which 555 Montanans took their own lives. Their data shows 74% of those individuals showed warning signs, while 26% did not.
Research indicates approximately 90% of those who complete suicide suffer from at least one major psychiatric disorder. However, there are situations when that’s not the case.
“A lot of times we think suicide is always the result of some mental health condition, but it doesn’t have to be…..with teens, some crisis will happen and 10 minutes later that teen is dead because they didn’t know what to do, they thought the breakup with the girlfriend or boyfriend was the end of their life and they had the means and they just went and did it,” explained Jo-Viviane Jones, Suicide Prevention Team member and Family Services Division Manager at the City-County Health Department.
Knowing the facts and being informed can reshape how we view others and the world.
“You may not be able to change events, but you can always change what you think about them,” said Tilton.
If you are in crisis and want help, call the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at 1-800-273-TALK or text “MT” to 741741.
Story by Shannon Newth, MTN News