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In Montana, suicide rates among seniors rank among the nation’s highest. Because of this, Billings Clinic-Logan Health is spearheading an initiative called the “Let’s Talk About It” campaign, which aims to not only address the pressing issue of suicide among the population, but also dismantle the stigma that surrounds mental health.

The Let’s Talk About It campaign champions open and candid dialogue about mental health and suicide. By creating a supportive environment where discussions are encouraged and stigma is challenged, we can pave the way for individuals in distress to seek the support they need.

The detrimental effects of stigma on mental health cannot be overstated, particularly to those who fall in the Greatest Generation or Baby Boomer demographics. Despite commonly facing mental health challenges, such as social isolation and feelings of insignificance, seniors are often deterred from seeking help because they feel shame and embarrassment when talking about their struggles and they worry about being labeled as mentally ill or unable to care for themselves due to their mental state. As a result, they suffer in silence.  According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, the suicide rate for seniors is 17 per 100,000, above the national average. The numbers only get worse the older they get, with the rate being 22.4 per 100,000 for the 85+ age range.

“A lot of times, we see seniors who feel as though they have a lack of purpose,” says Todd Shumard, MD, psychiatrist at Logan Health Behavioral Health in Kalispell. “They feel as though they’ve gone through their life, and there is not much left.” However, seniors could not be more important to communities today.  “They are still a very valuable part of the community,” continues Dr. Shumard. “They have so much to offer. They probably feel discounted or isolated, and it’s important that they get involved with others, so that they know they are relevant and needed.”

The wisdom and tradition of older populations enrich the fabric of society with invaluable insights. And that is certainly the case in communities across Montana. It is imperative that seniors are recognized for their ongoing relevance and significance.

By prioritizing conversations about mental health and challenging stigma, the Let’s Talk About It campaign not only seeks to combat the alarming rates of suicide among seniors, but also endeavors to affirm their value and belonging within a society. Together, let’s break the silence, erase stigma, and ensure that no senior feels alone or forgotten.

For more information, visit logan.org/LetsTalk.