Hobson teacher appointed to suicide prevention commission

Deb Hill
Managing Editor
Mary Kynett

“Montana is a large, rural state with some of the highest youth suicide rates in the country," Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said back in October. "It is critical that educators not only have resources to promote mental health for our students, but that they have access to these resources regardless of where they are in our state. This is an additional tool that we can use to provide Montana hope.”

Arntzen was speaking in favor of an amendment to Montana’s state code, which added a section requiring  “youth suicide awareness and prevention training.”

Passed by the legislature as House Bill 381, the amendment requires the Office of Public Instruction to provide training and resources on suicide prevention and response to the state’s school districts.

It’s a requirement Hobson teacher Mary Kynett believes in – so much so that she volunteered to serve on Arntzen’s committee, formally known as the Negotiated Rule Making Committee on Suicide Prevention and Response. Of the 16 members of the committee, Kynett is the only one from Central Montana.

According to Kynett, the committee’s main goal is to help schools make sure they have the resources in place to meet the requirement for training in youth suicide awareness and prevention.

“The schools must provide at least two hours of youth suicide prevention training for each employee of the school district,” Kynett said. “It’s recommended each employee has at least two hours of training every five years.”

Kynett, who attended the committee’s first meeting last Wednesday, said the work of the committee will ensure that training meets state standards, and is affordable and economical.

As a teacher of physical education and health in Hobson, suicide prevention is something Kynett feels strongly about.

“It’s one of the modules I teach,” she said. “Montana has some of the highest rates of suicide. Part of that is due to being rural, having fewer mental health counselors and maybe a lack of education about the causes. Lack of education is what this committee is trying to address.”

The new training will be for all school staff, Kynett said – bus drivers, aides, cafeteria workers and faculty, at no cost to the employee.

Kynett said her committee would make a recommendation to Arntzen in January for the best way to provide this training.

“The Office of Public Instruction is tasked with approving the training materials,” Kynett said. “Our committee will review them to make sure what each school does is in keeping with the accreditation guidelines.”

Suitable types of training include workshops, videoconferences, individual study of designated materials, online modules or other methods consistent with professional development standards, Kynett said.

Kynett said she believes learning more about the signs of suicide can be helpful in preventing it.

“We’ve been lucky here [Hobson]; there hasn’t been an incident recently,” Kynett said. “But you never know. It’s good to reinforce the behaviors to look for. If you see anyone exhibiting these behaviors, talk to them about it, ask them if they are thinking about suicide or seek help from a trusted adult.”





Suicide warning signs include:

Expressing thoughts of death or dying

Increased alcohol or drug use

Feels like there is no reason to live

Inability to sleep, anxious

Feeling of hopelessness

Withdrawal from normal activities and friends

Uncontrolled anger and irritability outside the norm

Reckless behavior

Dramatic mood changes

Wanting to give away prized possessions


Montana Suicide Hotline:  1-800-273-8255

Montana Crisis Text Line:  Text “mt” to 741-741

Additional resources:  www.dphhs.mt.gov/amdd/suicide



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