Just as silent as a heart attack, suicidal thoughts can take hold of a person with tragic consequences. Over the years, our medical knowledge has vastly improved and we can often recognize the signs of heart attack, allowing us to provide adequate assistance to the person in need. The same cannot be said about mental health issues, suicide in particular. Organized by Nichole Burrus, Campaigns Coordinator at the Student Justice Centre, a QPR Training Session took place on November 12 as a way to provide crucial life saving skills to help prevent a tragedy from happening.
Held at the Fireplace Lounge in Earp Residence, the event was facilitated by Tammy Brown, Manager for Residence Admission and Administration and Leslie MacPherson, a registered nurse at Student Health Services. The session detailed “Question Persuade Refer” (QPR), the three steps set by the QPR Institute that, if followed, can increase the likelihood of preventing a suicide. Asking someone if they are thinking of committing suicide is awkward and difficult, but it can be the very thing that allows a person to admit and open up about what’s troubling them. Persuading a suicidal individual to stay alive starts with letting them know that there are other ways to fix the problem. The last step is to refer, which employs the help of those comforting the individual to actively seek support in whatever capacity they may need.
The session emphasized the life-saving capabilities of QPR and stressed the urgency of having it gain the awareness that CPR has in society. “Mental health is finally a topic that is being brought out into the open,” said MacPherson. “We need to be able to help each other.” The session further discussed that suicidal thoughts can affect people in any demographic, even those who seem as if their lives are blessed with fortune and promise. It can be deadly to assume that certain people are immune to suicide. It is a staggering statistic that suicide is the second major leading cause of death among individuals aged 15 to 34. Brown and MacPherson put paramount importance on awareness and observation, pointing out the varying risk factors associated with suicidal thoughts (biological, psychological, environmental and proximal), so that participants in the seminar could better identify certain reasons behind suicidal thoughts. They discussed various misconceptions about mental health and suicide, articulating that suicide is not the answer to a problem, but in fact the problem of a lack of healthy solutions.
At the end of the session, participants received a QPR Gatekeeper Certificate attesting to their in-depth and accurate training on how to deal with individuals who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or tendencies. QPR is an awareness program, not a counselling program. Getting help can be intimidating and seemingly impossible for those suffering from suicidal thoughts. A person trained in QPR can act as the conduit between that individual and professional medical help, easing the intensely fragile transition into a healthier state of mind.
“QPR gives people the tools to help other people when approaching the difficult topic of suicide,” said Brown. “It is never easy, but conversation is the first step to getting better.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, start the conversation. Reach out; it can be as simple as talking about a problem or giving the support and strength to seek professional help. There is no shame in seeking help for mental health issues or suicidal thoughts. Student Health Services is a readily available resource to assist you in troubled times, never hesitating to help yourself or others. You have the ability to make a difference.