Advocates to Storm State Capitol to Request Training for School Personnel and Health Professionals to Help Fight Suicide

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Contact: Sheri Cole, Rocky Mountain Area Director, [email protected], 303-565-9215

HELENA, MT (February 9, 2017) – Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the United States, ranking third in the nation. To help prevent this tragic loss of life, volunteer advocates from the Montana chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are visiting Helena on Friday, February 10th to convince their legislative leaders to allocate funding to pay for suicide prevention training for school personnel (HB 265) and health professionals (HB71). The advocates will host a meet-and-greet for members of Congress and their staff from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Radisson Colonial Hotel Helena. Reporters who wish to attend can contact Jennifer Preble at [email protected].

“Suicide impacts everyone – it doesn’t discriminate. I was born and raised in this state and believe each and every one of us, no matter our profession, age, or role in our community have the capacity to lend a hand in reducing deaths from suicide for our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, ” said Jennifer Preble, board member and policy advocacy chair for the AFSP Montana chapter. Ms. Preble is currently a resident of East Helena, MT.

Advocates will be asking their state leaders to support HB71, the Health Professional Training bill. This legislation requires certain health and emergency care professionals (nurses, physician assistants, emergency care providers, licensed psychologists, professional counselors, social workers, addiction counselors, and marriage and family therapists) to complete six hours of training in suicidality assessment, treatment, and management training for each five-year license period.

Connecting suicidal individuals with quality mental health care is a vital component in preventing suicide deaths. With the right tools, health professionals can better recognize the warning signs for suicide and take the appropriate steps to protect patients who may be at risk. Many health professionals are unprepared to assess and treat suicidal individuals. Six states currently require this training via statute (Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Utah) – Montana can and should do the same.

Training in schools for personnel is equally important because suicide is the second leading cause of death for this age group. The volunteers will also be asking their state leaders to support HB265 which would create a school suicide prevention plan. This prevention plan would include mental health crisis response protocol, a resiliency curriculum, and a suicide prevention curriculum. HB265 also requires the superintendent of the grantee districts to develop a model suicide prevention plan.

Advocates are also encouraging their members to support:

  • House Bill 23 – which provides for suicide prevention among American Indian and rural youth
  • House Bill 117 – which provides an appropriation grant for Veteran Suicide Prevention efforts
  • House Bill 118 – which would revise and provide additional funding for the state Suicide Prevention Program

This is the first time AFSP is hosting a State Capitol Day in Montana. Ms. Preble is part of a larger national movement of AFSP volunteer advocates who will be visiting 35 state capitols across the United States in spring 2017 to bring best practices in suicide prevention to state legislators.

Suicide in Montana

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-44 in Montana, and the fourth leading cause of death for people aged 45-54. On average one person dies by suicide every 32 hours in the state. Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death overall in Montana.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.