The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation

 

September 11, 2019

It's like living with a dark cloud constantly around you. It's like a storm always heading your direction. World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. "Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern, just the slow erosion of self, as insidious as cancer. And like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience; a room in hell with only your name on the door." Martha Manning, Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface (1994)

Matt Hoffman in the Billings Gazette (Aug 14, 2019), 36% of the students taking the survey, said they felt sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row. During that time, they stopped doing some usual activities during the past 12 months. For teens, it is important to understand friends follow friends in committing suicide.

Nationally, farmers have had a higher rate of suicide per capita, then veterans. Many farmers feel trapped and hopeless.

Montana has had the highest suicide rate in the United States consistently for years. The question remains how we can have a dialogue to help prevent suicide in our areas. "Suicide needs to be prevented by saying something to love ones." "There is a big sigma to anyone who seeks help." "We have the cowboy mentality to cowboy up." "We treat it as a weakness, not an illness." "We approve of self-medication." "We need each other's faces and voices." "We don't believe there is any help available." "Nothing I haven't felt before. I've farmed for years. It's a difficult profession." "The pressure is seasonal."

The Native Reservations are experiencing suicidal epidemic rates.

Suicide in Montana, Facts, Figures, and Formulas for Prevention says, "Depression is treatable. Depression is one of the most treatable of all psychiatric disorders in young people. 86% treatment success rate with a combination of antidepressants and therapy - only 40-70% with either by themselves. You can't tell the difference by looking at them. Studies of people who have been institutionalized for depression who later killed themselves all indicate, that the period of greatest suicidal risk is not when the people are in the depths of depression, but during the first 90 days after the depression begins to live."

The Chouteau County Health Department put together a great informational paper. It states that nearly one in five adults experiences a mental disorder each year. Still, people suffering a mental disorder deal with misconceptions, misunderstand, and stigma; significant barriers that keep people for seeking and receiving treatment. Things that may cause people to avoid seeking help include; a Lack of understand and knowledge of mental illness; Prejudice or stigma towards people with mental health disorder, often based on fear and unease; secrecy about mental illness in the community and general hesitancy to seek care; and perceptions of a lack of confidentiality and privacy in small towns with closely-tied social networks.

Medical Provider uses a Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) to determine if depression is a medical concern for their patients. These are the questions they ask asking you to rate these problems: Little interest or pleasure in doing things; Feeling down, depressed or hopeless; Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much; Feeling tired or having little energy; Poor appetite or overeating; Feeling bad about yourself or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down; Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television; Moving or speaking so slowly that other people have noticed. Or the opposite being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual; Thoughts you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself.

If you have any of these symptoms or see any of these symptoms in your loved ones, there is medical help. Contact your medical provider and be honest.

According to their flyer, "The Chouteau County Health Department currently employs two licensed Social Workers who see patients at the Health Department on Wednesdays and Fridays. You can call the Health Department to set up an appointment at 406-622-3771."

Big Sandy, like all schools in the county, have available counselors to help children and students deal with mental health issues, stress, and anxiety."

"EMS workers are also trained in mental health and can provide appropriate care during response and transportation."

"We all know farming and rural life, in general, can be extremely stressful. Worrying about crops, cattle, finances, and equipment can result in a multitude of problems and anxieties. Your local Extension Office is offering programs regarding Stress and Farming Workshops and seminars. You can reach them for information by call 622-3751."

If you believe a loved one or a friend needs professional help, there are things you can do. Encourage the person to seek treatment. You are not an expert, and they will need a professional to get well. Many times depression is a chemical imbalance in the system. So they may need more support than you are capable of giving.

You can offer to help them find the right support, offering to drive them to appointments. Or seek help yourself on what is the best approach to take.

Mostly you need to encourage them to talk. DPHHS says, "Someone who's suicidal may be tempted to bottle up feelings because he or she feels ashamed, guilty or embarrassed. Be supportive and understand and express your opinions without placing blame. Listen attentively and avoid interrupting."

"Be respectful and acknowledge the person's feeling. Don't try to talk to the person out of his or her feelings or express shock. Remember, even though someone who's suicidal isn't thinking logically, the emotions are real. Not respecting how the person feels can shut down communication."

"Don't be patronizing or judgmental. Don't tell someone, 'things could be worse.' Instead, ask questions such as "What's causing you to feel so bad? What would make you feel better."

"NEVER promise to keep someone's suicidal feeling a secret. Take all signs of suicidal behavior seriously. Don't worry that you are overreacting, but the safety of your loved one is most important. Don't worry about straining your relationship when someone's life is at stake."

"Offer reassurance that things will get better and help the person to avoid all alcohol and drugs."

"Remove potentially dangerous items from the person's home if possible.

Remember, after the storm; the sun will shine again."

 
 

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