Public Lecture, Workshop Series Aims to Rethink Suicide Prevention

April 25, 2019

MISSOULA – Despite focused efforts in suicide prevention the past two decades, the number of suicides in the United States has increased by more than 60% over the past 17 years.

In the coming months, a University of Montana professor with more than 30 years of suicide prevention experience will offer a novel approach to understanding suicide through public lectures and professional training across the state. The first two events will be held Thursday and Friday, May 16-17, in Bozeman.

Dr. John Sommers-Flanagan, a UM professor in the Department of Counselor Education, said suicide deaths are increasing even as federal, state and local suicide prevention efforts have multiplied.

“Even in the face of vigorous and well-intended suicide and intervention efforts, per-capita suicide rates continue to rise at an average of 2% per year,” he said. “The needle keeps moving in the wrong direction.”

In raw numbers, national rates have gone from 29,180 deaths from suicide in 1999 to 47,173 deaths in 2017.

Sponsored by Big Sky Youth Empowerment, the lectures and workshops emphasize strengths, resilience and a debunking of problematic myths about suicide.

Sommers-Flanagan will present the first public lecture from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at Montana State University, SUB Ballroom D. The first professional workshop training will follow from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, in MSU’s Norm Abjornson Hall Room 165.

The public lectures are free. Professional training workshops cost $100 for 6.5 hours of continuing education and $50 for students and unlicensed participants. Additional public lectures are planned for Billings, Great Falls and Missoula.

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Contact: John Sommers-Flanagan, professor, UM Department of Counselor Education, 406-243-4263,