Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - With 32 suicides reported in Missoula County before the end of November, the Missoula City-County Health Department is offering services and programs to help prevent more suicides.

November's Suicide Rate Topped Five Previous Months

KGVO News spoke to Elissa White, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Missoula County, who provided the alarming numbers of those taking their own lives.

“In 2022 thus far from the end of November, we've had 32 suicides in Missoula County to compare to previous years,” began White. “In 2021, we had 27 through the end of the year, and in 2020, we had 22. In 2019, we had 22, and in 2018, we had 23. So when reviewing those numbers the 32 suicides before the end of November really stand out. It’s just a large jump from previous years, especially when we started looking at before COVID. We were in the low 20s and now we're looking to be in the mid-30s (in the number of suicides).”

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Youth Suicides are Down because of School Resources and Social Media

White said youth suicide numbers were much smaller, primarily due to so many suicide prevention programs in public schools.

“I think part of the reason we've had such success with lowering our youth suicide rates has been great efforts from people who work with the youth in our community,” she said. “There are school counselors and teachers and mental health professionals who have been really making concerted efforts to target youth in our community, and I think also the advent of social media has allowed us to talk about suicide. Studies and research show that when you talk about suicide it actually lowers the risk of dying by suicide.”

Learn the new Acronym 'QPR' Question, Persuade, Refer

White said the acronym ‘QPR’ helps to point out methods to lower the suicide rate.

“QPR is kind of like the acronym CPR,” she said. “It's three steps to help save someone's life from suicide. It stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. So, in the hour or hour and a half, we teach people the warning signs for suicide. They learn how to ask the question, or if someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, how to persuade that person to seek help for that and then refer them to resources in our community.”

White also referenced the high number of suicides using firearms and what help is available from the Health Department, such as free gun locks.

“Firearms are our number one means of dying by suicide in Missoula County and in the state of Montana,” she said. So if you or someone you know is struggling and you're concerned about them, we have free trigger locks and cable locks for rifles available at the Missoula City-County Health Department from eight to five you can walk in and I can get you one. Or if you want to fill out a request on our website at ‘give us a minute missoula.com’ I can send you one in the mail if you're out in Seeley Lake and you can't make it into Missoula.”

The gun locks are available free for pickup at the Missoula City-County Health Department, located at 301 West Alder.

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