Missoula’s City Club monthly meeting focused on the sensitive subject of suicide, entitled 'Help and Hope: Missoula’s Collective Approach to Preventing Suicide'.

Presenter Maritsa Georgiou, national correspondent of the online news site ‘Newsy’, hosted four panelists.

First to speak was Dr. Ann Douglas, Director of the Montana Native American Connections Program for the All Nations Health Center.

“Specifically, we have a grant called Missoula Native Connection, and that grant is designed for suicide prevention among the 15 to 24 year old Native youth in Missoula,” said Dr. Douglas. “We also are a sub-awardee for a grant called Standing Buffalo Strong out of Billings with the Billings Urban Center. That grant serves Native youth from 10 to 24, so we do a lot of prevention programming for our youth in Missoula, but also throughout the state in urban centers.”

Anton Johnson is an outreach specialist for the Veterans Administration and a US Army veteran.

“So the demographic that I primarily work with is one that I am that I'm also a huge advocate for, which is veterans in our community,” said Johnson. “This started with numerous suicides personally and through connections that I know, and I really wanted to work to try to keep those numbers from growing. I’ve come up with a couple ideas of my own and some others’ input to try to tackle it in a different view.”

Terry Kendrick, director of the Strategic Alliance for Behavioral Health and Program Manager at Partnership Health Center for the Mobile Support Team said mental health issues bring many to the point of considering suicide.

“This strategic alliance formed really to focus on the population that ended up either in the emergency departments of local hospitals or in jail because of behavioral health needs, whether that was mental illness or combination of mental illness and substance use disorder,” said Kendrick.

Rosie Ayers, coordinator of Project Tomorrow Montana, Missoula's countywide suicide-prevention collaboration said the wider use of tele-health technology has vastly improved the opportunities for those dealing with mental health issues and suicide.

“One of the very few silver linings about what has happened in the last year and a half is we now have increased our ability to use tele-health to be able to get our psychiatric help and our therapists and our psychiatric nurses and our crisis care to be able to connect through those airwaves,” said Ayers. “It's quite phenomenal to watch how our digital world has improved some of that help that so many are seeking.”

Strategies include innovative approaches to mental health crises, and increasing the protective factors that come from human relationships and social connectedness.

The City Club meeting was held virtually over ZOOM. For more information about City Club meetings, visit their website. 

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