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Montana Youth in Mental Health Crisis

Montana ranks number one in the country for youth suicide (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, 2011). Montana students participate in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) administered annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019). The survey measures six health-risk areas that contribute to death and disability (CDC, 2019). The 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicated that 28.4% of American Indian youth living on a federally recognized Indian reservation had considered suicide; 23.8% reported they made a suicide plan; 21.3% attempted suicide; and, 44% felt sad or hopeless for two-weeks or more. Sample results are shown in Table 1.


Table 1: 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey


AI-R: American Indian students living on a reservation. AI-U: American Indian students living in an urban center.


Question asked:


Felt so sad or hopeless two weeks or more in a row?

AI - R AI - U

44.0% 47.9%


Considered suicide during the past 12 months?

AI - R AI - U

28.4% 31.0%


Made a suicide plan during the past 12 months?

AI - R AI - U

23.8% 26.1%


Attempted suicide during the past 12 months?

AI - R AI - U

21.3% 17.2%


If you attempted, suicide did the attempt result in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that has to be treated by a doctor?

AI - R AI - U

9.0% 5.8%


The Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey 10-year trend data indicates that the percentage of Montana youth feeling sad or hopeless for more than two weeks increased by nearly 6% from the 2017 survey results, and has increased steadily since a slight decrease 2009 to 2011; The percentage of Montana youth indicating they considered suicide increased by over 3% when compared to the 2017 survey results; The percentage of Montana youth indicating they made a suicide plan increased by nearly 3% when compared to the 2017 survey results; The percentage of Montana youth indicating they had attempted suicide increased by a 1/2% when compared to the 2017 results and has increased by 3.5% since 2011. Sample results are shown in Table 2.


Table 2: Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey 10-year trend (All Youth)


The data in Table 2 represents the 10-year trends for ALL students completing the Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey.


Felt so sad or hopeless two weeks or more in a row

2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019

27.3 25.2 26.4 29.3 31.0 36.7


Considered suicide during the past 12 months

2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019

17.4 15.2 16.8 18.8 20.8 23.4


Made a suicide plan during the past 12 months?

2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019

13.4 12.3 13.6 15.5 16.6 19.5


Attempted suicide during the past 12 months

2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019

7.7 6.5 7.5 8.9 9.5 10.0


If you attempted suicide did the attempt result in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that has to be treated by a doctor

2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019

2.8 2.4 2.6 3.1 3.1 13.7


The 2017 Montana YRBS data shows that of the 15.82% of American Indian middle school youth indicating they had attempted suicide, 45.8% had experienced face-to-face

bullying; 46.2% had been cyberbullied; and 29.4% had experienced teasing because of sexual orientation (Montana Office of Public Instruction, 2017). Table 3 shows selective data from the 2017 Montana Youth Risk Behavioral Survey.


Table 3: 2017 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey

AI-R: American Indian students living on a reservation. AI-U: American Indian students living in an urban center.


Question asked: YRBS Middle School Students

AI - R AI - U Attempted Suicide


Were bullied on school property during the past 12 months?

AI - R AI - U Attempted Suicide

41.18% 36.87% 45.8%


Were electronically bullied during the past 12 months?

AI - R AI - U Attempted Suicide

23.73% 20.47% 46.2%


Have you been a victim of teasing or name-calling because someone thought you were gay, lesbian, or bisexual?

AI - R AI - U Attempted Suicide

19.26% 20.10% 29.4%


IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.


Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic learning environment that honors your student community, visit our website at www.iinii.org, or contact us at iinii@iinii.org or 1800-507-2502.



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