On the heels of Word Mental Health Day, dozens of tribal representatives along with Montana’s governor are fighting to reduce and prevent American Indian youth suicide. Tribal Governments, Urban Indian Health Centers, Indian Health Service, Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the Montana State Legislature are working together at the Zero Suicide Academy in Helena.
“Zero Suicide Academy is a major step forward in a statewide effort to reduce native youth suicide,” said Governor Bullock. “I applaud the dedication and commitment of this incredible group of individuals who are uniting in this challenging work to ensure that zero suicides in Montana can become a reality.”
Released in January 2017, this training is a critical component of the Montana Native Youth Suicide Reduction Strategic Plan. The plan, which includes four pillars, aims to ‘establish a statewide infrastructure to reduce Native youth suicide by building upon the best practices available for regional and local impact.’ A major piece of the first of four pillars in the Native Youth Suicide Reduction Plan is to launch a statewide Zero Suicide Initiative, which includes the Zero Suicide Academy.
According to DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan, the Zero Suicide Academy event is designed to provide specific, actionable information and has been tailored to meet Montana’s needs. “It really speaks to our State-Tribal partnerships in addressing important issues together that we think will lead to better outcomes,” Hogan said.
Hogan also said the agency worked closely with the Tribes and Urban Indian Health Centers and Indian Health Service to identify the key participants to attend the Academy as there are a limited number of available slots. “Those who participate in the Academy will then be encouraged to return to their communities and begin the process of implementing the Zero Suicide framework,” Hogan said. “This has been a partnership in every sense of the word and we’re excited to move this forward together.”
Coalition chair Loren Bird Rattler of the Blackfeet Tribe said the Zero Suicide approach focuses on a system-wide approach to improve outcomes and close gaps rather than on the heroic efforts of individual practitioners.
This integrated approach will require engaging leadership in each community to examine current policies and practices and committing to Zero Suicide in health and healthcare settings. It will require training frontline staff to conduct universal screenings and risk assessments as one part of a comprehensive system-approach to suicide care. It will challenge behavioral health systems to provide the quick response and care needed.
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