GREAT FALLS — Suicide and mental health might not subjects that are easy to talk about, but it's become more and more relevant. And as we wrap up No More Violence Week, organizations invited community members to speak on this issue in what they say has become more important than ever.
NoMore Violence week featured the play, Every Brilliant Thing, which surrounds the struggles of life.
Actress Rosie Ayres, who also serves as a coordinator for Project Tomorow Montana explained her reasons for hosting the seminar in a play-format.
"There's something about the emotionality of listening to music together or seeing a play that instantly helps us get to the center of how we feel and what we experience, and when we do that together in play format or music, automatically, we're able to touch that center of emotionalism and empathy.
According to the 2019 the National Vital Statistics Report, Montana ranked 3rd in the highest suicide rate in the nation, and for all age groups, the state ranked in the top five for suicide rates in the nation for the past few decades. Reasons might consist of isolation, lack of resources, and socioeconomic reasons as 1/5 Montana kids live more than 100 percent below the federal poverty level. (source: https://dphhs.mt.gov/assets/suicideprevention/SuicideinMontana.pdf)
"When I first heard about Montana being number three in the nation for suicides, I was shocked," Ayres said." And as I learned about the reasons, it made a lot of sense, and lowering the stigma around mental health seemed like something simple that I can be a part of, changing the narrative, making it known that mental health is health, and I wanted to be a part of better change in Montana to not just change how other people think, but the policies, around what we're doing to make access to mental health easier."
During the seminar, much of the questions asked pertained to suicide and mental health amongst the youth. As suicide rates increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, organizers said spreading awareness is more important than ever.
Tiffany Sweeney works as a school counselor for White Sulphur Springs School District, and said it's become a major concern for our youth. However, we should take into account people of all age groups.
"We are a wonderfully beautiful state, we have a lot to offer," Sweeney said. "but we can't ignore the other side of what's happening and that there are many people who feel alone, there are many people who feel isolated, there are many people struggling, and we need to start letting them know that it's ok to be having these conversations and that there's help out there."
If you are in crisis and want help, call the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24/7, at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text “MT” to 741 741
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