Foundation’s work focused on suicide awareness

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The first Nate Chute snowboard races were held 20 years ago on Big Mountain as a way to remember a friend who tragically took his own life. Today, the event is thriving in participation and has blossomed into a crucial funding mechanism for the Nate Chute Foundation, which is dedicated to suicide prevention among young people.

The important work of this Flathead Valley-based nonprofit cannot be understated. Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. — a statistic that hits close to home for many of us in Northwest Montana, said Kacy Howard, executive director of the foundation.

“I think unfortunately our community has been impacted by suicide more than we would like and especially in the last few years,” she said. “I think it’s really great that our community as a whole is placing importance on this conversation, that we’re more willing to have this conversation and prioritize our community’s mental wellness through the support of the work that we do.”

The Nate Chute Foundation provides assistance for suicide prevention programs, mental health counseling and student assistance programs in schools in the Flathead Valley, including Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Bigfork, Lakeside and West Valley. At a time when funding for mental-health programs is on the decline, this nonprofit is rising to the occasion.

This year’s races will be held Saturday and Sunday at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and already its Crowdrise campaign has raised nearly $20,000 in honor of the event’s 20th anniversary. To support the cause visit https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/20th-annual-nate-chute-banked-slalom-and-boardercross

We were pleased to learn there’s been a sizable upswing in the numbers of younger voters, both statewide and in Flathead County.

A report from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement pointed out that of 17 states analyzed for voter turnout among young adults ages 18 to 29, Montana saw the largest increase, with an increase of nearly 25 percentage points from 2014 to last year’s elections.

Flathead County’s young people also are showing up at the polls in much greater numbers, with youth voter turnout increasing by 23 percentage points in last year’s elections. The increase in younger voters can be attributed to colleges, high schools and organizations pushing get-the-vote-out efforts. As Kiah Abbey, deputy director of Forward Montana, notes, “If you vote when you’re young, you’re more likely to continue voting every year.”

Forward Montana is an organization that encourages young adults to take an active role in voting. Last year the organization registered 7,791 voters. Encouraging people to exercise their civic duty by voting is a worthy goal, no matter what the age of voters.

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