September event planned to combat statistic


MANHATTAN, Mont. – Montana leads the country in the number of veterans as well as veteran suicides per capita. The state ranks second in firearms ownership, and 66 percent of all Montana suicides are firearms related compared to 50 percent in the rest of the country.

It’s common for veterans with post-traumatic stress injury to fall into alcohol abuse and Montana already leads the nation in DUIs. In 2014, 52 percent of veteran suicides were related to alcohol, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

Operation Never Forgotten, a national nonprofit headquartered in Manhattan, Mont., is trying to change this statistic through PTSI workshops for post-9/11 veterans, and suicide-prevention, first-aid training for caregivers, veteran mentors, or anyone who wants to help save a life.

ONF is hosting a free PTSI workshop at the 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky from Sept. 23-27 for veterans and their caregivers. The workshop includes healthcare experts, veteran mentors and activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing and a day in Yellowstone National Park.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports approximately 22 suicides per day in the U.S. among veterans of all eras, according to AAS. Montana also leads the country in general population suicides at 23.9 percent.

Karl Rosston, Suicide Prevention Coordinator of Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services along with the Montana Office of Vital Statistics, found that between 2002 and 2011, there were 460 suicides by Montana veterans. PTSI can increase depression with veterans, which can increase their risk for suicide. Reaching them among other veterans at an ideation stage is necessary prevention.

The “way of the west” or “cowboy-up” philosophies compound a stigma about seeking professional help. Montana has 1 person per 6.7 square miles, which creates isolation, a lack of socialization, a shortage of available healthcare facilities, and prolonged crisis-response time.

ONF has previously held two large retreats in Big Sky for veterans and their caregivers at Big Sky Resort, in the winter of 2011 and summer of 2012, and other PTSI workshops have been held in Michigan, Minnesota and Washington.

Montana has resources for veterans to get immediate help, 24/7. If you or any veteran you know is thinking about suicide, call the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255. Veteran centers around the state provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to all veterans who have served in any combat zone, as well as their family members.

Visit to learn more about how you can help fight veteran suicide in Montana or volunteer for Operation Never Forgotten.