Suicide Prevention during COVID-19 Study

Suicide prevention for Montana’s American Indian communities—especially those living in rural areas—presents unique challenges, including isolation and lack of access to care. The disruption of suicide prevention care as usual caused by COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those difficulties for Montana’s behavioral health and medical providers.

The Center conducted a needs assessment and feedback survey to assess the perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs of behavioral health and medical providers who are involved in preventing suicides among Montana’s American Indian communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. While results confirmed that the social disconnectedness was weighing on the mental health of Montana, it also revealed a promising practicing for suicide prevention during the pandemic and beyond – telehealth.

The Center virtually presented on the Covid and Suicide Prevention Study at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Conference.

Native American Suicide Prevention in Montana during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges. Beyond the physical harms of COVID-19, the pandemic carries secondary consequences, such as social isolation, economic stress, and barriers to mental health treatment.

Because suicide prevention requires special attention during the pandemic, the Center launched a study in collaboration with Tribal and urban Indian health centers throughout Montana. The study sought to identify perceptions and attitudes of behavioral health and medical care providers who are working to prevent suicides during this difficult time. The survey asked about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on suicide risks among American Indians in Montana, changes in suicide prevention care, adoption of telehealth, and the effectiveness and efficiency of telehealth for suicide prevention services.

Findings from the study have been published in the June 2021 edition of Telemedicine and eHealth journal.

Infographic: Results of a survey of 80 Montana behavioral health clinicians, nurses, physicians, health-care managers, and more