BILLINGS — The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone Valley is working to raise awareness of the new three-digit suicide prevention hotline with the use of yard signs throughout Billings and surrounding communities.
“The point of the yard signs is to promote the 988 number, but also to promote different groups and organizations that are specifically working on suicide prevention in the community,” said Chairperson of the coalition Sarah Music.
One of the groups that partnered with the coalition is Ask in Earnest.
“I lost my dad to suicide and I think, like so many other families, we were just completely blown out of the water,” said Ask in Earnest Founder Darla Tyler-McSherry, “and his friend said you know when your dad was in town, and he saw you walking down the street he would stop and he would ask in earnest how you were doing.”
Tyler-McSherry lost her father to suicide on their family farm in Big Sandy in 2016. Hearing that story from her fathers friend really moved her and in 2018 she created Ask in Earnest to help other farmers and ranchers.
“Farm and ranching has disproportionate rates in suicide in comparison to other occupations,” Tyler-McSherry said.
Montana first began using the 988 hotline in July 2022. Music said the hotline did see "a little increase" in calls when the three-digit number first became an option and she is “hoping that people continue to utilize it, too.”
And if you are worried about someone who may be struggling, you can also use the hotline for guidance on how to help.
“No longer do we have to worry about memorizing that long number,” said Tyler-McSherry.
The signs of hope will be up through Sept. 30, providing awareness and guidance to those who may need it most.
The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone Valley is also hosting a free in-person and online conference on Sept. 24 providing presentations on suicide prevention strategies.