The American Association of Suicidology released its latest report on suicide rates, and Montana seems to be making progress.
For the first time in the last decade, Montana did not rank among the top three states in suicide rates. Matt Kuntz, Montana director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says that this is only a step in the battle to combat suicides across the state.
“What’s been really cool is in about the past seven or eight years, there’s been a bunch of different organizations and individuals that have brought different things to the table. It’s a real joint effort,” says Kuntz.
That joint effort is to combat suicides across the state. In 2017, Montana ranked first nationwide for suicide rates. In 2018, the latest data available, that rank went to fourth across the country. Kuntz credits mass organizations rallying together for suicide prevention.
“A big part of it is increasing access to care,” says Kuntz.
Despite the increase of care, the report states that the United States, as a country, increased in suicides in 2018. The crude rate for suicides that year was 14.8%, the highest it's ever been since 1938.
“When this data came out, I lost a dear friend that year and we had a number of different families that we worked with that lost people. It sure didn’t feel like the epidemic was over for that number and we know that we need to continue to improve how we do suicide prevention,” says Kuntz.
One of those ways is targeting specific audiences.
“I was counsel quite a few years ago that we have to focus on what we can control, and we can control, and we will deliver the best practices to try to reduce suicides in target populations,” says Kuntz.
Examples of target population, according to Kuntz, are such things like high school or middle school students. The goal for Kuntz and his group is to have the state out of the top five for suicide rates for five years.
“We really are gonna know that we’ve done something when we’ve been out of top five for five years,” says Kuntz.
This goal will hopefully lead to the long goal of total suicide prevention. As of 2020, Kuntz accepts the 2018 data for Montana, as a first step.
“I think that this is a really nice first step. It’s a real statement to everybody that’s worked so hard around the state to try to improve awareness and access to care, but it is just a first step. We’re still losing too many people everyday and we just need to keep fighting,” says Kuntz.
If you are or know someone having suicidal thoughts, you are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: