Mental Health

Addressing the Issues of Depression and Suicide in Montana

This program had its genesis in the winter of 2015 when One Montana was asked by the MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development to create a listening tour in eastern Montana on rural mental health issues. Six months later, Dr. Matthew Byerly, an M.D. psychiatrist from Texas, was hired to direct the new MSU-based Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery. One Montana's president, Bill Bryan, was immediately asked by Dr. Byerly to help the Center develop a strong base in rural Montana. 

Because Montana has the highest suicide rate in the United States, an early focus of the Center has been to adapt and implement a program called Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) in 11 high schools in the state, starting in the 2016-2017 school year. One Montana has helped to identify some of those schools and assisted in the training of facilitators who will conduct the program's implementation. YAM is the only clear evidence-based suicide prevention program in the world that shows 59% reduction in suicide attempts and a 52% reduction in suicidal thoughts.

One Montana also has been asked to help the Center address the mental health issue of depression in rural Montana. A year ago, a survey of Montana Extension field faculty in all 56 counties in Montana found that the number one and number two issues they are confronting at the local level are stress and depression. However, there is little expertise in Extension to address these issues. One Montana is collaborating with the Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery to develop a significant infrastructure strategy within Extension to educate their field faculty and others in the area of mental health and giving them tools to network with evidence-based programs like YAM in their communities.  Both Extension and the Center recently received a grant to test a virtual cognitive behavioral therapy program in rural Montana. It’s called THRIVE. One Montana is helping the Center identify how best to begin to test THRIVE in rural counties and communities in our state. 

Funding One Montana's work in this area involves a two-fold approach. The first is that One Montana is being incorporated into some of the Center's grant proposals. The other is for us to raise monies from our sources to supplement the limited funding the Center has to implement their programs in rural Montana.

While this may seem like a subject that is drastically different than others at One Montana, nevertheless it is a critical issue in bridging the rural-urban divide where communities like Bozeman have excellent mental health services while most of our “frontier” rural communities have little or no services. Yet, mental health affects everyone, whether they’re rural or urban. And One Montana’s reputation as a collaborator and a connector has gotten us into a position where we are playing a very helpful role in this subject area.  It’s certainly an exciting development for us as we go forward.

If you are interested in supporting the development of this vital program, contact Bill Bryan, President.