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Health officials address crisis situation in suicides in Butte and Montana

Posted at 12:39 PM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 14:39:44-04

BUTTE – In addressing the problem of suicide in Southwestern Montana, the progress is not good.

“Poor, very poor,” said the Regional Director of Western Montana Mental Health Michael Foust.

The state ranks first in the nation for completed suicides per capita. Mental health officials say it’s a crisis situation and the best way to address it is through a pro-active, coordinated strategy of response through multiple agencies.

“If we can begin to link our communication, our helplines, our suicide hotlines, and begin to give people a local response, we know that we can begin to reduce the number of individuals completing suicide,” said Foust.

Establishing this coordination has been difficult since so many agencies are often competing for the same grants and having a lack of mental health resources.

“It’s very difficult to partner when you’re in competition with one another and mental health concerns really should be a community response that works together to solve a problem. Instead, what we’ve done is we’ve created an isolationist-type approach to mental health,” said Foust.

Some in Butte are doing their part, such as the Orphan Girl Theater, which will host a play for young people next week called “Every Brilliant Thing” that will address the issue of suicide.

“There will be a panel discussion afterward to talk back and process how the audience feels about the play, ask questions and receive support afterward,” said Cass Weber of the theater’s operating board.

And this message seems even more urgent to get out in Butte today, where some people erected a makeshift memorial at the base of Big Butte in memory of a young man who recently took his own life. This problem is not going away.

“I mean, you have high unemployment, higher than the rest of the state, a depressed economy, there’s a drug epidemic here that other counties are experiencing but a higher rate here,” said Foust.

Officials are ready to address this crisis. The play will be Tuesday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Orphan Girl Children’s Theater. It is free to the public.

John Emeigh – MTN News