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Suicide prevention training offered as rates increase

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MISSOULA, MT - With national and Montana suicide rates increasing, health officials are offering more trainings on the proper response to a possible suicide.

QPR Gatekeeper Trainings teach people to look for signs of suicide like hopelessness, apathy, or somebody talking about not wanting to live.

Suicide specialist, Heidi Kendall of the Missoula City-County Health Department, says the next step is quickly responding with QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer.

"You want to talk to them about it and ask them, 'Are you thinking about suicide?' People are afraid to do that because they think that it will put the idea in their mind. It won't do that. We know that from evidence. It's okay to ask someone if they are feeling suicidal," said Kendall.

Missoula resident Kaylyn Brown went to school for social work. We talked to her at a recent QPR training at Saint Patrick Hospital. She says suicide isn't talked about enough, and asking someone if they are thinking about taking his or her life is crucial.

"It's important to get over how scary it is to ask somebody that because it is important and can save a life," said Brown.

Montana is ranked number three in the nation for suicide rates. Even though we have dropped from number one, the percentages are still climbing.

We looked at numbers from the National Vital Statistics 2015 Report.

It shows Montana's rate of 26.3 is about double the national suicide rate.

Specialists say if somebody tells you that they are struggling, you need to get them help.

"You can either take them to someone who is a mental health professional. Or call and make an appointment, but stay with them if they are suicidal," said Kendall.

Risk factors in Montana include a large population of veterans and less access to mental health services.

That's why QPR trainings are becoming more available.

Suicide hotlines are available 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

You can dial 1-800-273-talk (8255), or text 741 - 741, and counselors will respond immediately.

More QPR Gatekeeper trainings are scheduled at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula April 4th, April 10th and May 9th.

St. Patrick Psychiatric Services and Project Tomorrow sponsors these trainings.

To schedule a training for your community group, you can send a request to hkendall@missoulacounty.us or call 406-258-3883.

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