Health Science Connection for Secondary & Post-Secondary Educators
Dear (Contact First Name), 

The Area Health Education Center, Office of Public Instruction and Department of Public Health and Human Services have formed a partnership to achieve a healthier Montana by pursuing the goals and strategies described in the state health improvement plan and to build a public health and health care system that supports these goals. Join us as we highlight health priorities, highlight careers in public health, and offer activities for the classroom to reinforce these goals. A healthy population is essential to a healthy economy. Let's build a healthier Montana together!

Montana State Health Improvement Plan - Improve Mental Health and Reduce Substance Abuse


Montana has been ranked in the top five states for suicide rates for the last three decades, and continues to remain one of the highest in the nation. Suicide has been a leading cause of death for young adults in Montana in the past ten years. While trying to move in a positive direction to provide resources and support mental health promotion, Montana aims to increase early identification, intervention, and referral to treatment which are keys to improving mental health within the state.


Some of the strategies for mental health improvement and reduction of substance abuse the Dept. of Public Health and Human Services has outlined is to:

  • Promote implementation of the Montana Strategic Suicide Prevention Plan
  • Increase awareness of substance abuse prevention and mental health through public education (e.g. "Above the Influence" media campaign, Suicide Prevention Media Campaign Project (PRISM project by Mental Health America of Montana))
  • Provide training for school staffs to support students with mental illness and reduce substance abuse among youth
  • Improve services to traumatized children using evidence-based practices in healthcare and the public health system

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. (2013). Big Sky. New Horizons. A Healthier Montana: A Plan to Improve the Health of Montanans. [PDF file]. Available at: [Accessed 29 May 2014].

Montana Strategic Health Prevention Plan


Kevin Briggs - TED Talk: The bridge between suicide and life
Kevin Briggs - TED Talk: The bridge between suicide and life

The Montana Strategic Health Prevention Plan focuses on the importance of recognizing risk factors for suicide and the variety of those factors that affect suicide within Montana. The plan includes multiple factors for different age groups, racial groups, and other demographics that vary greatly within suicide. These risk factors include but are not limited to; environmental, biopsychosocial, socio-cultural, family, personal, behavioral, etc.


On the other side of the spectrum, the protective factors to prevent suicide by adolescents includes; the ability to communicate problems with family or friends (strong support system), emotional health, strong sense of self-worth, hope for future, etc. The plan offers a diverse range of suicide prevention activities and ideas that can be implemented within the classroom in order to promote suicide prevention and mental health.


Rosston, K. (2012). Montana Strategic Health Prevention Plan - 2013(5th ed.). [PDF file]. Available at: [Accessed 29 May 2014].

Suicide Prevention Program


"Depression is treatable. Suicide is preventable."

The Suicide Prevention Program is coordinated by Karl Rosston. A major portion of what the program (and Karl) offers is training and education throughout the state. Karl is on the faculty of the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. He trains the new police officers and detention officers in suicide prevention. Karl also lectures at various colleges throughout the state; Caroll College, University of Montana, University of Montana - Western, and Helena College. Karl trains education majors, physicians, and nurses in different communities across the state.

The program also offers suicide prevention toolkits or programs to be implemented within schools called SOS (Signs of Suicide) programs. Similar programs are also available for primary care providers and senior living communities.


The Suicide Prevention Program provides the state with various television and radio advertising in order to educate Montana's communities.


The Suicide Prevention Program also works with different programs around the state and provides a variety of resources such as; blankets and smocks for detention centers. The Suicide Prevention Program distributes gun locks for firearm safety programs throughout the state and provides funding for community grants to different health departments.


For more information about the SOS Suicide Prevention Program please see the flyer here:


Rosston, K. (2014, June 2). Telephone interview.

Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey: High School Results (2013)

  • Within the span of 12 months, 26.4% of Montana high school students felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row which stopped them from doing usual activities.
  • 16.8% of Montana high school students have considered attempting suicide within the past year.
  • Within the last 12 months 7.9% of Montana high school students have actually attempted suicide one or more times.
  • 2.6% of those attempted suicides by Montana high school students have resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse.

Montana Office of Public Instruction. (2013). Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey: High School Results [PDF file] (pp.17, 18). Available at: [Accessed 29 May 2014].


This "Suicide Prevention" lesson plan offered by PBS: Public Broadcasting Service includes various objectives and thorough procedures that focus on the subject of suicide among teenagers. A video, "Depression: On the Edge" from the "In the Mix" video series is needed for the materials; this video would allow students to visualize and experience the effects of depression and importance of suicide prevention. The free lesson plan is available at: 


Another lesson plan option is this "Bullying Novel" multi-lesson plan allows students to relate and reflect on the issues involved with bullying. This free lesson plan is available at: 


Another preventative concept that is involved with suicide is self-esteem. A couple of free lesson plans that focus on "Improving Self Esteem" are available at:


alling all college students interested in health professions!


Whether you are already in a health science program of study or still considering your options, joining a post-secondary HOSA chapter will allow you to explore careers in health through competitive events, job shadowing and educational symposiums with medical professionals.


College students who join HOSA will also receive FREE membership to the National Rural Health Association, courtesy of the MT Office of Rural Health!


And if that's not enough, HOSA also offers scholarships for school and opportunities to prepare for the MCAT or NCLEX Exams, 


There are 57 different competitive events to compete in at State and National Leadership Conferences. You can even compete in Epidemiology, Public Health, Healthy Lifestyles, or CERT skills.


Find out more about Montana HOSA: CLICK HERE


September's current HOSA updates include;


Martha Roberston is the new HOSA State Director! Martha is a great addition to HOSA and has a lot of experience within the program.


Upcoming meetings;


September 29-Oct. 7 Fall Workshops (regional dates and times TBA)


There were three MedStart camps this summer sponsored by the North Central, South Central, and Western Montana AHEC regions.


Student evaluations showed the camps were a great success!


Some of the highlights from the summer camps included;

  • Public Health activities
  • Oral health
  • Water testing
  • Nutrition

REACH is an acronym for Research and Explore Awesome Careers in Health. The regional AHECs set up a partnership between local hospitals and high schools to provide students the opportunity to visit their local hospital and participate in hands-on activities in a variety of departments.


The Eastern Montana AHEC region is hosting these REACH events:


October 8th in Red Lodge - Open for students from Red Lodge, Bridger, Joliet, Roberts, Belfry and Fromberg


November 12th in Lewistown - Open for students from Lewistown, Stanford, Hobson, Geyser, Grass Range, Moore, Roy, Denton, Winnett, and Winifred


November 18th in Miles City - Open for students in Custer, Garfield, Prairie, Fallon, Carter and Powder River counties


The Western Montana AHEC region is hosting these REACH events:


October -  Open for Troy High School at Cabinet Peaks, in Libby.

November - Open for Arlee at Providence St. Pat's (tentative)

November - Open for Alberton, Regis & Superior at Mineral Community Hospital, in Superior

December - Open for Big Sky Health Science Academy at UM College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences


Earlier this summer, a dozen students from the Billings HRDC Summer Youth Employment and Training program spent a day at RiverStone Health to learn about oral health and public health careers.
A licensed clinical social worker helps individuals overcome mental health or substance abuse issues by providing counseling. 


The average national annual salary of a licensed clinical social worker is $67,650. The overall salary range varies from $38,720, to the top 10 percent earning more than $110,880.


Karl Rosston is the State Suicide Prevention Coordinator. Karl answered the following interview questions to help students better understand his career.  


Q. How and why did you choose this career?

A. I have been a therapist for a long time. I am a licensed clinical social worker, so I have been in the mental health field for more than twenty years and have been a therapist for that long. I was doing a lot of suicide prevention while I was working at the Shodair Children's Hospital and [the University of] Colorado prior to this position. This was mainly because I'm also a survivor. I lost a sister to suicide in 1987. I was already in mental health but definitely my focus on suicide prevention is personal for me.


Q. What does a typical day in your work life look like?

A. There are a lot of different things I do. I train all over the state, so I travel a lot from every corner within the state. I also review any suicides that have occurred in the state; I often review death certificates and medical records on any suicides that occur. I often research new suicide studies that come out concerning suicide prevention. I update curriculum and connect with people from around the state. I also order material prevention materials  for schools, law enforcement, hospitals, and universities.


Q. What are your working conditions like?

A. I am a big believer in stopping at 5 o'clock and leaving the job here. I do travel a lot but the good part about that is I plan my own travel. My work environment is great; the Addictive and Mental Health Disorders Division is a very supportive environment, and there is a lot of collaboration with the good people I work with so that definitely makes it easy. In addition to work environment, I am a one man show, there is no one in the state at my level so I can set my own tone.


Q. What educational requirements are needed for your career?

A. I have my undergrad in psychology and a master's in clinical social work.


Q. What skills and abilities are necessary in your profession?

A. A thorough knowledge base of the field of suicide prevention and research is necessary. Being licensed clinical social worker and a therapist greatly benefits my ability to understand the issue of suicide and the underlying mental health issues that often go with it.


Q. Any final thoughts? Either about your career or the Suicide Prevention Program?

A. Awareness and education is a key component. That is really our focus, is to raise the education awareness around the issue of suicide for people within the state of Montana. That is our primary goal.


Rosston, K. (2014, June 2). Telephone interview. 


United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014). Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Social Workers.[online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

Toolkits for High Schools

Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools -


After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools -


Montana Suicide Survivor Support Groups -   

Resource Information from the Suicide Prevention Program -

In This Issue
MT Health Improvement Plan
MT Strategic Health Prevention Plan
Suicide Prevention Program
40th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week

The 40th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week is September 8th-14th, 2014 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day which is September 10th, 2014. This month is an important time to create awareness of the importance of suicide prevention and mental health.
Quick Links

Please contact us with your comments, ideas, questions or projects you'd like to see highlighted in future issues of this e-newsletter. And thank you for the work you do every day to inspire and support public health initiatives and health care in Montana!


Renee Harris
Montana Area Health Education Center (AHEC)