A new nonprofit is looking to engage the community in training and education to help curb suicides of military veterans.
The Veterans Coalition of Northwest Montana (VCNWM) formed last year, and as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, it works to connect veterans with veterans, as well as veterans with the various resources available to them.
Nan Wise, executive assistant at VCNWM, said a recent training session hosted by her organization yielded 26 people who are now qualified to train others in recognizing the signs of suicide. The training is available to anyone who would like to receive it, not just veterans and their families.
“We’re above and beyond where I thought we would be right now,” Wise said. “We’re less than a year old as a coalition and to be able to have this many people trained to go out in the community now to provide this training.”
Overall, the organization’s goal with the program is to have 200 members of the Northwest Montana community to have received the training by 2020. The training takes 60 to 90 minutes.
“I think we’re going to exceed that by leaps and bounds, maybe double and triple that number,” Wise said. “It’s just a great opportunity to really make a difference and connect veterans with care available in our communities and maybe get to our veterans before they’re in crisis.”
Across the country, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. High-risk groups include ages 18 to 26, and 55 and older. Montana has a large veteran population, comprising about 10 percent of the total population. Of the 98,386 veterans in Montana in 2017, 74,820 of them are wartime veterans, according to the Veterans Health Administration. Seventy-two percent of the state’s veteran population lives in rural or highly rural areas.
Wise said the VCNWM wants to be a hub for veterans to find out about services and support available to them, and a place where community partners can connect with veterans as well.
VCNWM will have a booth at the upcoming Northwest Montana Arms Collector Show at the Flathead County Fairgrounds on March 29, where the group will give away gunlocks and speak to veterans and members of the public about the suicide-prevention training.
For more information about the Veterans Coalition of Northwest Montana, visit www.VCNWM.org or call (406) 407-8423.