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Question, Persuade, Refer: How to Prevent Suicide

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Amber Gausshttps://writers.work/ambergauss
Amber Gauss (they/them) is a Psychology major. They have been part of staff since August 2019. They write about Mental Health in their column Mental Space.

Suicide: the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. This is the Merriam-Webster definition of suicide. It is an end to suffering and an end to pressure. It is preventable, and there are three steps that one must follow to prevent someone from taking their own life.

These steps were taught this past Wednesday, Sept. 18 by the Tiger Counseling Center and the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties in a training that was open to students, staff, and faculty called Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR).

One student in attendance, Dorothy Morgan (’22), said she was there because “extra credit was offered in my psychology class. But I know people who have done it, and I think the training offers insight on what you can do to prevent it.”

At the end of the presentation, all in attendance received a certificate stating that they were certified in QPR training and suicide prevention, which is valid for three years. At the beginning of the presentation, it was emphasized to those in attendance that QPR is not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment, rather it is intended to offer hope through positive action.

Those in attendance were informed that in 2016, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in America with 44,965 people dying from suicide. However, between the ages of 15 and 24, it rises between the first and second cause of death. In fact, as of 2016, 5,723 people in this age group die by suicide each year at a rate of one completed suicide every two hours. Attendees were also informed that a note is left approximately 60 percent of the time, which makes ruling a death as a suicide difficult.

In Clark County, there were 24 completed suicides in 2017. Of these, 21 of the individuals were male, and 19 of the individuals were white. These are only the completed suicides that occurred in 2017, which says nothing about the failed attempts that may have happened.

Adriane Miller, a representative from the Mental Health & Recovery Board, believes that these estimates are low. This is because a coroner is less likely to put suicide on a person’s death certificate due to stigma. When a person dies by suicide, people are uncomfortable and blame the victim, yet when a person dies of a heart attack or cancer, people bring food and flowers to the grieving family.

It is important to take all signs of suicide seriously, and there are many signs to see. There are indirect verbal clues, which are more common: phrases like “I just want out.” Another sign to watch out for are behavioral clues, such as a previous attempts or giving away prized possessions.

Attendees were given tips for asking the “Suicide Question” so that they were prepared should they ever need to use this training. Some tips that were given were: be persistent, talk to the person alone privately, and give both yourself and the person time.

Attendees were taught how to persuade someone to stay alive, and were reminded that suicide is not the problem, only an irreversible solution to a temporary problem. Attendees were also taught to ask the person to get help after persuading them to stay alive.

A referral may be necessary for someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, and if it is, attendees were taught how to do so: take the person directly to someone who can help. Those in attendance were told to say certain phrases for the QPR to be most effective, as well as to get others involved. The importance of following up after using QPR was also emphasized, as it shows the person being helped that they are cared about and that suicide is not the answer they are searching for.

One thing Morgan would have liked to have learned was “how to handle a situation where the person is unwilling to get help.” When prompted, she continued, “It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.”

It is important to emphasize that suicide is not the answer, and if anyone is struggling with it, there are resources available both on and off campus.

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