Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, and there have been six reported deaths this year in Indiana County.
The Suicide Task Force of Indiana County (STF) presented a Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training and panel at the 6 O’Clock Series Monday in the Hadley Union Building’s Ohio Room.
The STF is a local non-profit organization established to prevent suicides through education and intervention and to provide support to those affected by suicides.
“The topic of suicide is a very difficult topic but a very important one,” said Dr. David Ralph May, co-chair of the STF. “47,000 people died of suicide in the United States in 2017. We’ll train 100 people to save one.”
May explained that suicide statistics are “grossly” underestimated since it is hard to tell if a person deliberately decided to kill him/herself. There must be clear evidence that the victim wanted to die.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, suicide is defined as “death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of that behavior.”
From 1999-2017, the suicide rate has increased by 33% and continues to rapidly rise.
Suicide is a public health crisis, and the STF is adamant about training people in QPR to recognize what to do in a suicide crisis.
However, suicide is preventable.
May compared QPR to CPR. Just like we need people trained in CPR to save lives, we need QPR training to save lives.
The first step of QPR is to question the individual during a crisis situation.
“Asking someone if they’re thinking about suicide does not cause them to attempt suicide,” May said as he emphasized the biggest myth toward suicide prevention.
If people are suicidal, it means they are struggling. There is often a bystander effect, meaning that people are afraid to help, or they think that someone else will help.
By questioning a struggling person in the moment of suicide crisis, you can be the gatekeeper between life and death. We cannot be afraid to address it.
Belinda Lambie, guidance counselor at Purchase Line School District, stressed the importance of questioning through Major League Baseball umpire, John Tumpane, who saved a woman from jumping off the Roberto Clemente Bridge by starting with a simple question, “Are you OK?”
How you ask the question isn’t as important as asking the question, as long as you aren’t devaluing the person’s thoughts and feelings.
You can take an indirect approach, such as “have you been unhappy?” or more direct by saying “are you thinking of killing yourself?”
How can you tell if someone is in a suicide crisis?
Craig Faish, Crisis Hotline Coordinator and director at The Open Door, explained the three main groups and warning signs: direct, indirect and situational.
Direct warning signs include explicit statements of self-harm or suicidal ideations. Indirect warning signs include general feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. Situational warning signs include, but are not limited to, being fired, recent loss of any major relationship and drug/alcohol use. Other warning signs can include feelings of sadness, depression, lack of energy and mood changes for weeks or months or any behavioral clues such as past suicide attempts, stashing pills and serious mental illnesses such as concurring depression.
Once you get past the question of QPR, persuading is the hardest part because it is hard to get them to accept help.
“If they tell you they are suicidal, listen and give them your full attention,” said Lambie. “You don’t have to say anything, just listen.”
“You are the first responder until someone professional comes along.”
By persuading them, you are giving them hope to live. Ask them what they’re passionate about or what they really care about to build a wall of support.
The final step in QPR, to refer, means to give them the resources they need to get help. Help them make the arrangements and accompany them or else keep in contact with them.
Local resources available to contact include the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, Armstrong-Indiana Crisis at 1-877-333-2470, the Alice Paul House at 724-349-4444, and the HAVIN at 724-548-8888.
“When you use QPR, you are planting the seeds of hope,” said Lambie.
“We have trained over 1,300 people,” said May. “You can’t train enough people. I encourage everyone to get trained and seek help.”
Students are also encouraged to volunteer for the STF.
Further information can be found at the STF website (stf32.com) or the QPR Institute website (qprinstitute.com).
Craig Faish, Crisis Hotline Coordinator and Director at The Open Door,
Dr. Ralph May, co-chair of the STF, 724-465-5576
Belinda Lambie, guidance counselor at Purchase Line School District