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Two Montana Youth Organizations Receive $250,000 For Suicide Prevention Project

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County is based in Bozeman, Montana, May 30, 2019.
Rachel Cramer
Yellowstone Public Radio
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County is based in Bozeman, Montana, May 30, 2019.

The same week Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula announced it would close its doors Friday, the same organizations in Gallatin and Park and Sweet Grass Counties announced they had received a quarter-million-dollar grant to address youth suicide.

Youth suicides in Montana are about triple the national average. One in ten high school students and one in seven middle school students reported attempting suicide in 2018, according to the state’s health department.

Lander Bachert, chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County, says a strong stigma of depression and mental health, loneliness and a lack of health services are just some of the contributing factors.

“Also, just Vitamin D. We don’t have enough sunshine, and the research behind the factors layering on our children and on our population — they’re nothing to be trifled with. We want to make it easier and help give everyone their best opportunity,” says Bachert.

The two organizations serve over 200 youth between the ages of six and fourteen. They recently received a $250,000 grant from AMB West Philanthropies — the Montana arm of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation — to start their new Suicide Prevention Through Mentorship Project.

This June, Bachert will become a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.

“I’ll then have the ability to train all of our mentors in ways to better communicate with kids about mental health, to assess risk. I’ll be able to offer these services to school districts and college kids and really anyone that has a child in their life,” she says.

Bachert will be able to provide trainings across Montana and Wyoming. She says she hopes this will help fill a gap in Missoula after Big Brothers Big Sisters closes there this week.

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation awarded 32 grants totaling over $1 million this month to nonprofits in Montana. Three of those grants focus on youth suicide prevention.

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County and Park and Sweet Grass Counties: $250,000 over three years for the Suicide Prevention Through Mentorship Project
  • MSU Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery: $25,000 challenge grant for development and evaluation of an evidence-based internet cognitive behavior therapy (iCBT) program to reduce suicidal risk factors for Montana adolescents
  • RISE Up Montana: $96,000 over three years to provide crisis response and mental health support for Park County students and families

The Montana Department of Health and Human Services provides information and resources on suicide prevention.