Wavering Significance of Suicide Awareness Month

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Student Government’s suicide awareness initiative found in Hellgate halls. Photo courtesy of Devyn Deschamps.

Devyn Deschamps, Reporter

September comes and goes every year without a blink of an eye; back-to-school season, the arrival of Friday night lights capture attention without opposition. Continuously overlooked is the return of Suicide Awareness Month. 

In recent years, conversations regarding mental health have been slightly destigmatized, but when it comes to saying the word ‘suicide’, many bite their tongue. Even though Montana had the third highest rate of suicide nationally in 2021, according to the Montana Office of Epidemiology and Scientific Support, the topic is merely skimmed over in the health class all Montanan students are required to take. 

Regardless of Montana’s exceedingly high numbers of fatalities yearly, the topic is approached with much hesitancy, even throughout September, when the conversations are intended to be free-flowing. These good intentions have seemingly been in vain, at least in the school system. While administrators are content with the occasional blue card, students all across the city, the state, and the country are constantly faced with mental obstacles that posters stating, “You got this!” won’t fix. 

10.2% of Montanan students from grades 9 to 12 have attempted suicide, as well as 13.3% of 7th and 8th graders according to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. According to the same survey, 21.7% of the same Montanan high school students had contemplated suicide. 

As concerning as these statistics are, what’s almost more concerning is the lack of action that has taken place. This comes as even more of a scare when, a mere eleven years ago, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported a 6.5% of Montana high school students had attempted suicide. Even if one wants to dismiss behavior, the numbers are undeniable. 

The intention of this isn’t to blast high schools across the country on their ambiguous involvement in suicide prevention, regardless of the criticism it needs; but rather to show appreciation for the small but meaningful projects that can be seen at Hellgate. This includes Hellgate Student Government’s initiative for the month, where all students in their English classroom have been asked to give a reason to the prompt, “What keeps me going…” These notes are then published anonymously on a bulletin board within the school. 

This is an important step for suicide awareness: showing students’ association with the topic. However, it should be concerning that it’s the students taking the sole initiative on arguably one of the nation’s most concerning issues.

Most everyone has had some sort of experience with suicide, whether that’s a death of a loved one, an acquaintance at school, a celebrity, or oneself. This isn’t some issue that can be fixed through a singular alteration, but through having those hard conversations, checking in with people who seem ‘okay’, and watching for signs of depression, throughout the year, not only in September. Blatant ignorance has only made matters worse, but awareness can help bring sources nearer to those who need them. 

 

If you or someone you know is struggling or in a crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.