Speaking Out

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Dick Tyler, a once Montana native, is remembered by his children for a lot of things, particularly his skill of farming. Darla and Randall often reminisce about their father as they grieve his death from an unexpected suicide. However, this is not stopping them from trying to help others. The two siblings are using their father’s story to create a dialogue that may help save others from going through the same heart-wrenching pain.

Suicide is an epidemic across the world. Between the years of 1999 and 2010, suicide rates rose almost thirty percent. Every day, more-and-more people decide to end their own lives. A recent report from the CDC claims the suicide rate in Montana is over twice the national average; moreover, suicide rates in rural areas where Tyler lived are forty-five percent higher than their urban counterparts.

Since its peak in 2013, farming income has decreased by fifty percent, and it is expected to keep dropping over the next decade. While farmers and their families become more and more financially burdened, this could result in even higher rates of suicide in rural areas than are seen now.

Many of the signs and symptoms of suicide are subtle and often missed. Darla, the director of student health services at Montana State University Billings, is trained to detect signs of depression in the students at her school. However, even with proper training, symptoms can be camouflaged as Darla was unable to see the pain that her eighty-two-year-old father carried.

Could Tyler’s suicide have been prevented? While nothing is certain, being able to detect signs of depression and suicidal behaviors in someone is the first step in getting them the proper mental health treatment. Watching for changes in behavior such as the loss of motivation in the things that someone once loved often accompanied with a general emotional disconnect from friends and family could be signs that someone is depressed and at risk of suicidal behavior. Also, listening for verbal signs such as “ I don’t want to live anymore” and “Everyone would be better off without me” are often signs someone is in emotional agony. Mental illness need not be cast with a negative stigma anymore. People like Dick Tyler are dying daily, and it is time we talk about it.

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