Montana, with a suicide rate nearly twice the national average, has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

In 2014, there were 243 suicides in Montana for an average of 20 per month, according to the final report for 2014 from the Montana Suicide Review Team.

Firearms continue to be the primary means by which Montanans take their lives, according to the report, constituting 61 percent of the suicides. Hanging is the second most common means at 19 percent, followed by overdose at 11 percent.

It is against that backdrop of the suicide rates  that the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone Valley is offering the Fifth Annual Conference on Suicide Prevention in partnership with Billings Clinic.

The goal of the conference is, in part, designed for participants to gain the skills necessary to interview and intervene with people at risk of suicide. Another goal, among many, is to identify statewide resources and suicide prevention strategies.

The conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Mansfield Health Education Center at St. Vincent Healthcare. It is designed for those who are passionate about suicide prevention, health care professionals and educators.

The cost is $50 per general participant; $30 for students. Lunch will be provided. You may register at spcoalitionyv.org or call (406) 647-0379.

Event sponsors are St. Vincent Healthcare, the Montana Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and RiverStone Health, Yellowstone County's public health agency.