First responders on front lines of battle against mental health - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

First responders on front lines of battle against mental health issues

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MISSOULA - Montana has one of the nation's highest suicide rates and winter can be an even more difficult time for people struggling with mental illness. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that 123 suicides occur per day in the U.S. and when a mental health call is made, it's our first responders who are sent in to help.

Missoula Police Corporal Chris Kaneff says they often respond to calls requesting wellness checks or asking for help when a person is suffering from a psychotic break.

Officers arrive on the scene not knowing what to expect and work quickly to determine if the person is a danger to themselves or to others but in order to say that a person is in danger the subject must say so. 

"If it’s not something we can immediately point a finger at and get them help at saint pats or community then it’s frustrating to try and get them the help they need. We as police just don’t have those resources at hand," said Kaneff. 

If the subject doesn't want to seek treatment there isn't much that law enforcement can do. Kaneff said intervention from a loved one is the best way to help. If you know someone who is feeling depressed or having thoughts of suicide encourage them to see a doctor as soon as possible or call

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

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