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Suicide Prevention and Awareness

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Sheriff officials say Robin Williams had been seeking treatment for depression. His sudden death has brought the delicate subject of suicide into the spotlight. Suicide: it's a word that packs a big punch and mighty blow to loved ones that are forced to deal with that kind of tragedy.

It's a sad statistic, but suicide is one of the top causes of death in the state of Montana. Butte is a high contributor to that overall statistic.

"Butte-Silver Bow definitely has an issue in regard to this problem. We are among the top two in the state of Montana in regards to suicide when you look at all ages," said BSB health officer Karen Sullivan.

Sullivan heads a suicide prevention team and says the biggest culprit of suicide is mental illness and says, “I think we need to get real in Montana and Butte-Silver Bow in regards to facing mental illness and not being ashamed to face it."

Mental illness is a leading factor in suicidal behavior, but anyone can exhibit suicidal signs. Mike Sawicki of Western Montana Mental Health says, "Not all people with a mental illness are suicidal and not all suicides are caused by mental illness. It's a very complicated phenomenon."

Experts say most suicidal people will display warning flags that family and friends can look out for. Among other things abrupt changes in personality, giving away prized possessions, irregular sleep patterns, and an increase in drug and alcohol use can all be indicators of a person contemplating suicide.

Recognizing these behaviors and confronting them head on is key to preventing a suicidal tragedy.

Sullivan says, "You address it head on with the person at risk and you do not leave their side and you indicate to them you will help them get the help they need right now."

"There is no reason to die. Nature wants us to live, survive and thrive," said Sawicki.

If you suspect someone is teetering on the edge of suicide don't be afraid to confront them, you might be the one to stand between life and death. If you are somebody thinking about suicide, there are support hotlines that are just a phone call away. That number is 1-800-273-TALK.

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