Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Nancy de Pastino
Suicide Prevention Coordinator Missoula City-County Health Department 

Suicide prevention in our community

Healthy Paths


August 22, 2019

Photo provided

Nancy de Pastino Suicide Prevention Coordinator Missoula City-County Health Department • 406-258-3881

I always like to get the bad news first, then follow with the good. So I'll start there. Most of us are aware that Montana has the highest rate of suicide in the nation. Most of us have been touched in some way by suicide. There are a lot of factors that contribute to Montana's high rate of suicide, including a lack of mental health services (especially in rural areas), easy access to firearms and the lingering stigma about depression and reaching out for mental health help.

Now on to the good news. We're working incredibly hard in Missoula County to improve our community's safety net for those in crisis. Volunteers from the Missoula City-County Health Department train anyone and everyone to be QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Gatekeepers. It's like CPR for mental health. QPR Gatekeepers aren't expected to become counselors for the people they find to be in crisis, they just keep them "safe for now" as we like to say, until a professional can help them. Reach out to me if you'd like to schedule a QPR training for your workplace, community center or school.

We also give away free gun locks at the Missoula Health Department. Means matter, and firearms are the most widely used method in completed suicides. Storing your guns locked and separate from locked ammunition is the safest model of gun ownership. If someone who you know is in crisis, find a safe way to remove lethal means from them. It could very well save a life.

If you are interested in learning more, getting involved or volunteering in suicide prevention, now is a fantastic time to join us. September is Suicide Prevention Month, and we have some great events coming up in Missoula. Check out for details and to reserve tickets. And I hope you'll walk with us at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness Walk on Sept. 14.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text "MT" to 741-741.

Please never hesitate to reach out to my office if you need resources, advice, gun locks, or to schedule a training. We're in this together!


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