Billings, Montana Schools Implementing District-Wide Student Depression and Suicide Trainings

Billings Public Schools is using federal relief funds to support its Signs-of-Suicide (SOS) program, which provides information for students to recognize signs of depression in themselves and their peers and action steps they can take to seek out help.   Trained personnel presented the program to sixth and ninth-grade students and administer its adolescent depression screener in the hopes of helping to identify at-risk students. By supporting this program, the district hopes to increase students’ understanding of depression and encourage them to take action and seek help if needed.

We are spotlighting this because the district provided targeted support for students during a time of heightened depression and anxiety among youth.

Reviewer Analysis

The Education Trust

Given the ample findings that depression and other mental health issues increased for students during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a timely investment for student well-being.

The Rural Alliance

We really like the idea of educating students in the area of anxiety, depression and mental health, not only in the recognizing, but also the steps that the student can seek for more assistance.

Leslie Villegas

Student mental health, and increased suicide rates among youth, is of critical concern, and considering the disproportinte impact English learners and their families have shouldered throughout the pandemic, there is bound to be a high need for this program among these communities. That being said, the program will only be able to meet the needs of ELs and their families if the personnel and other staff in the program are prepared to work linguistically and culturally diverse students.


With increased mental health concerns during the pandemic, depression screening and suicide prevention are important measures schools can engage in to identify at-risk students and provide them with the needed support. We would want to make sure that after the program, counseling would be available and accessible to those students identified as at-risk.

New Leaders

Using funds to support students’ mental health and well-being is a strong use of funds. What wraparound support and training is being offered to parents, teachers, and families?

The Bush Center

This is a hedged yes. What are they also investing to support the academic achievement of their students?

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