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New tool available in Montana to help combat suicidal thoughts

Posted at 9:39 AM, Dec 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-11 11:39:41-05

BILLINGS – There is a new tool available to those who may be having suicidal thoughts: a suicide safety plan.

It’s an actual document, a piece of paper one would fill out with a healthcare professional or a good friend to reference the next time a suicidal thought takes over.

Those who work in public health believe this new tool is a valuable way to combat one of Montana’s most tragic epidemics.

“Safety planning is a very important contract that you make with yourself,” said Dr. Claire Oakley, director of health promotion in public health services with RiverStone Health.

Oakley said during the holidays especially emotions can run high. While many might be feeling grateful or elated by the season, others are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, she said.

For some feeling mental anguish, calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline or visiting an emergency room are options to handle the pressure. But for others, a suicide safety plan might be the right response.

Oakley said the safety plan should be done with a professional first.

“As a last resort there are some online apps,” said Oakley. “The idea of doing a safety plan with somebody else is that its team functions. You’re making this contract with yourself and this other person.”

So goes into a suicide safety plan?

  • First, the document asks to list the warning signs a suicidal person is feeling, their moods, situation, and behavior.
  • What are the coping strategies?
  • How can you take your mind off suicide?
  • The plan asks to provide those who you can call to help distract.
  • Also, what agencies are available to call in a crisis?
  • And last, what steps need to be taken to make the environment safe?

“So you can get a broad sense of what’s available, what are your options, how to think about different things,” said Oakley.

Public health officials say a suicide safety plan is just another resource in the community to help during hard times.

There is immediate help available with the Suicide Prevention Hotline which is open 24/7 to call or text to speak with someone if you are having suicidal thoughts.

That number is 1-800-273-TALK. You can also text MT to 741-741.

-Andrea Lutz reporting for MTN News