It was the phone call no parent can imagine getting.

At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, Christina Irmen received a call at work from a student counselor at Skyview High School. Irmen, a single mother of three, was told to meet the counselor in 20 minutes at the Billings Clinic Emergency Department.

Her 14-year-old daughter, a freshman, was planning to kill herself.

"Your heart never races so fast," Irmen said in an interview. "You go into panic mode. Your child is hurt."

It was her daughter's second suicide attempt. The first time was about 18 months ago when she took roughly 25 random pills she found around the house. She left a note, which her mother found. Kati spent two days in the psychiatric ward at Billings Clinic.

She was in seventh grade. She felt "alone" and was "losing friends."

"I got really scared and tried to end my life," she said.

This time, she used a box cutter to slit one arm from her wrist to her shoulder and the other arm from her wrist to her elbow. She spent four days in the psychiatric ward at Billings Clinic.She was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

Cutting, she said, gives her reassurance that she is alive and that life is real.

Both she and her mother agreed to be interviewed in the hopes of helping someone else who might be going through something similar.

"I want to go out of my way to show others that they aren't the only ones who need help," Kati said.

Mother and daughter bond
Cindy Uken, Townsquare Media

Irmen and her daughter are keenly aware of the state's suicide rate and want to help combat it.

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.

Of the 243 suicides last year, 37 were youth, age 24 and younger.

Firearms continue to be the primary means by which Montanans take their lives, according to the report, constituting 61 percent of the suicides. Of the 37 youth who died by suicide, 57 percent used a firearm.

Hanging is the second most common means at 19 percent, followed by overdose at 11 percent.

To help raise awareness of suicide in Montana, residents will gather in Veterans Park on Sunday, Sept. 20 to participate in the Yellowstone Valley Out of the Darkness Walk. They will join hundreds of thousands of people across the nation to raise awareness and money to enable the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy and support survivors of suicide loss.

The organization’s goal is to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025.

Irmen and Kati plan to participate in the walk.

Online registration closes at noon on Friday, Sept. 18. However, anyone who would like to participate can register in person at the walk from the check-in begins at 12:45 p.m. until the walk starts at 2 p.m.

For more information, contact Joan Nye at (406) 321-0591 or via email at

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