Summit geared toward preventing suicide

By CONOR GLESNER/Montana State News

Karl Rosston of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services spoke at the Summit on Suicide Prevention on the Montana State University campus this past Monday.

According to the MSU website, the Summit aimed to “review relevant research, data, and promising practices to reduce suicide and improve mental health for the students attending Montana’s colleges and universities.” Montana has the highest rate of suicide of any state in the nation, according to a 2014 National Vital Statistics Report.

The research reviewed during the Summit revealed substantial statistics concerning suicide — especially when it comes to college students. According to Rosston, It is estimated that there are more than 1,100 suicides on college campuses per year, making it the second leading cause of death for college students. Rosston also went on to state that within the last two years in the Montana University System there has been an average of eight suicides, and that at least 90 percent of all people who commit suicide suffer from at least one major psychiatric disorder.

But the summit was not only about the review of information — there were workshops about reducing suicide rates and promoting mental health within the university. Separate groups were work shopped specifically for students, staff, faculty and administration, all approaching the subject from their corresponding perspectives.

Donn Marshall of the University of Puget Sound, also spoke about prevention efforts, stating that “(Suicide) interventions must be tailored to specific community needs … we cannot simply rely on experts to do this work.” Marshall called for a system of support that engages the entire university by forming coalitions specific to each campus.

Another keynote speaker Ben Locke of Penn State University emphasized the role of counselling centers in suicide prevention and pointing out that “Demand for mental health services is dramatically outpacing institutional growth.”  He called for continued support and funding of counselling centers as an effective and important part of student wellness.

The summit was aimed at developing strategties to  prevent future tragedies and better assist the mental health of the student body through informing MSU about suicide on both an individual and campus-wide level. The summit encouraged all students to speak up about mental health issues, and to make use of the existing support services, such as the department of Counselling and Psychological Services, which can be reached at (406) 994-4531 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 237-8255.

– Edited by Kristin Rochniak

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