Billings Mayor accepts nationwide Mayor Challenge - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Billings Mayor accepts nationwide Mayor Challenge

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

The Mayor's Challenge was started by the Veterans Administration to identify cities across the country that have high incidences of suicide. In Montana, the mayors of Helena and Billings have both accepted the challenge to elevate the issue of suicide prevention amongst service members.

The Mayor's Challenge was conceived in the hopes of taking a more targeted approach toward a meaningful way of addressing suicide rates nationwide for those who have bravely served our country.

Dr. Claire Oakley is the director of health promotion at Riverstone Health. She said Montana has the second highest veteran suicide rate in the country and, nationwide, she said 20 veterans commit suicide every day.

"What's very important about Montana is that Montana has the highest per capita, per rate of veterans," Dr. Oakley said. "So we have tremendous military service records in the state."

In addition to a high rate of suicide among veterans, Dr. Oakley said suicide rates overall are high in Montana.

"The rate in Montana is even worse than national averages so we owe it to them. We owe it to ourselves to address this problem and it's also a way that we could educate not just veterans, but everybody in Montana about this terrible problem that we have across our state."

Billings is one of seven cities across the country, invited to participate in the Mayor 's Challenge to combat suicide. Billings Mayor, Bill Cole, said City Council Member Mike Yakawich and Dr. Oakley are leading the effort in conjunction with the suicide prevention coalition.

"With education, providing those opportunities, a place to call, and to help people understand that there is help out there," Mayor Cole said.

"We're going to continue the good work of the local suicide prevention coalition and then to specifically target service member veterans and their families," Dr. Oakley said.

Oakley said United Way 211 is a website you can go to,to find suicide prevention resources. The Mayor's Challenge is expected to last six months, but Mayor Cole said it will continue in Billings, as long as it's helping veterans.
 

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