Suicide Rate High in One Montana County - News, Sports and Weather

Suicide Rate High in One Montana County

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In the United States, about twelve people for every one-hundred-thousand commit suicide. The 2012-2013 health assessment found that is doubled in Flathead county. 22 years ago, this became more than a statistic for Jolie Fish.

Jolie Fish, mother of a suicide victim said, "He and Wendy were sitting on the couch crying and my first assumption was perhaps I was going to be a grandmother, a little earlier than I had expected... What they told me was far more tragic."

Her 18-year-old son, Douglas, admitted he was having suicidal thoughts.

"Regardless of the fact that I'm a social worker and I had knowledge, head knowledge, of suicide I still the biggest myth he won't do it."

Jolie kept this admission a secret while Douglas went into therapy, until he shot himself in the head after his girlfriend broke up with him. Now Jolie shares her story around the valley, even though high schools wouldn't hear of it two decades ago.

Joan Schmidt, MT Dept of public health & human services said, "The cost of care and the stigma attached to mental health services is huge and that stops a lot of people."

Some blame the state's culture.

Diane Conti, Kalispell adult mental health center director said, "We're very much a pull yourself up by your own bootstraps culture. Reaching out for help can be seen as a weakness, and that is something we really want to work on." "mental health resources are significantly under funded in Montana."

Flathead health officer-- Joe Russell-- thinks the county could be doing a lot more to address the issue.

Joe Russell, Flathead Health Officer said,"We think some of the better things we could do is focus on some of those primary prevention interventions that could happen in 4, 5, 6, 7-year-olds."

Everyone I spoke with today said that just talking about it is half the battle.

"Feeling comfortable about asking that question, realizing that you're not planting the seed. You're not going to give somebody an idea of taking their own life when you ask them. You're providing them relief."

Jolie continues to ask that tough question.

"I don't think there's been one of them that I have not had the experience of someone recognizing that they were having a problem and coming to me."

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