Governor Steve Bullock and members of the Montana Broadcaster’s Association (MBA) today launched a new media campaign of TV and radio public service announcements that focus on raising awareness about suicide prevention in Montana.
“To move the needle regarding suicide in our state, it is going to take all of us doing our part and pulling together to make a difference,” said Governor Bullock. “The Montana Broadcaster’s Association is providing Montana with a gift we can all truly be grateful for to help raise awareness about suicide prevention in Montana. These are timely and critical messages that will draw attention to an issue we all care so deeply about.”
MBA Board Chair Jon Saunders said its members have been heartbroken by the impact suicide is having on Montana families, and decided the time is now to do something about it. “We are so proud to partner with the State of Montana on this important project,” Saunders said. “By working together, I believe this effort will make a positive difference in our state.”
The new Prevent Suicide Montana ads will begin airing statewide immediately. MBA, along with creative talent from the Montana Television Network and the Montana Radio Company, offered to produce and air the PSAs for one year. The total estimated value for production and air time is well over $200,000, when combined with additional donated radio air time from the Montana Radio Company.
The MBA is an organization made up of 155 TV and radio stations across Montana. The spots will be made available immediately to all MBA members to begin airing. They are being aired under a program called the Non-Commercial Sustaining Announcement Program. NCSA is a 20-year-old program that has been made available to non-profits and state agencies. Saunders said MBA waived their usual charge because of their commitment and priority to partner with the state on this campaign.
The organizations worked jointly with Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials to create the ad contents. The ads focus on four main areas, including safe storage of firearms for those at the highest risk with access to lethal means (males age 35-64), recognizing the signs of suicide, Veterans and youth.
Suicide continues to be a major public health issue in the state. Montana has been at or near the top in the nation for the rate of suicide for nearly four decades. From January 2014 to March 2016, there were 555 suicides in Montana. Currently, Montana has the third highest suicide rate in the nation.
The common theme in all four ads urge Montanans to speak up and reach out to an individual who is exhibiting signs of suicide. The ads state: ‘The only wrong thing to say, is to say nothing at all.’
In addition, all the messages highlight help that is available including the Crisis Text Line and Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Text Line can be accessed by texting MT to 741-741. It offers 24/7 access to crisis counselors through a familiar format, especially appealing to youth: text message.
For calendar year 2016 through March 2017, nearly 300 Montanans reached out for help through the Text Line. In addition, there have been 5 ‘active rescues’ during this time. An ‘active rescue’ means an individual who is threatening to commit suicide or serious harm to themselves.
The Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides another option and is available 24/7 for people in crisis to call at 1-800-273-TALK. Veterans are urged to call this number and by pressing ‘1’ will be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline. On average about 3,300 Montanans call the Lifeline each year.
Dr. Eric Arzubi, Chair of Psychiatry at Billings Clinic, said the new PSAs deliver the important message that it’s OK to talk about suicide. “The less we talk about this problem, the more it will grow,” he said. “Stigma, shame and avoidance fuel this crisis. Too often, we don't want to hear that someone is suicidal, because we may feel uncomfortable or anxious about how to help. Our own discomfort should not get in the way of extending a lifeline to someone in crisis.”
Matt Kuntz of NAMI-MT stresses it’s important for Montanans to learn the signs of suicide and understand that mental illness is a major contributing factor to Montana’s high suicide rate. “It’s so important that we not only become familiar with the signs of suicide, but also that we take action and help those who may not be able to help themselves.”
Kuntz also stressed that the Lifeline and Text Line can be used as a resource for friends and family who may have a loved one struggling with suicidal thoughts. “By reaching out themselves, they can receive specific guidance on how to help a loved one,” he said. “These resources can help Montanans understand when to intervene and that there's guidance available from counselors to make sure the intervention is done in the best way possible.”
For more information about suicide prevention in Montana go to http://dphhs.mt.gov/amdd/Suicide.
ABOUT THE PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS
The new TV and radio ads can be accessed at http://dphhs.mt.gov/suicideprevention
The message: It’s vital that Montanans learn the signs of suicide, including depression, alcohol abuse, isolation, and giving away possessions.
- In 74% of the suicides where warning signs were identified, at least three warning signs were present in each suicide. Rosston urges Montanans to speak up and ask the difficult question if an individual is showing signs of suicide. He says ask, “Are you feeling suicidal?”
- Safe storage of firearms for those at highest risk (males age 35-64) with access to lethal means
The message: Access to lethal means is a huge factor for this age group. This ad states: ‘If a loved one is depressed, ask to temporarily store guns away from home.’
Also, DPHHS actively promotes the importance of using gun locks.
- This is the highest risk age group for suicide in Montana. Over 50% of Montana suicides involved males age 35-64. Further, 88% of all firearm deaths in Montana are suicides.
The message: This ad reaches out to Veterans.
- From January 2014 to March 2016, there were 555 suicides in Montana, and 22% involved Veterans and 69% were over the age of 55. Montana has more than 97,000 Veterans, or nearly 1 in 10. Suicide among Veterans is a major concern in Montana, and nationally as well.
The message: This ad urges youth to reach out to their friends and offer help to those who are showing signs of suicide.
Statistics: In Montana, between 2005 and 2014, suicide was the number two cause of death for young people, behind only unintentional injuries. Access to lethal means is a major issue with youth as well. 63% of youth suicides in Montana are with firearms, which is triple the national rate.