When I walked into the QPR training, a workshop for anyone to learn about suicide prevention, I wasn’t really expecting to participate at all.
I thought I would just sit in the back, observe what was happening, take a few pictures, write my story and get out to enjoy the rest of my day. However, the leaders of the training had other plans.
As I walked in, Tim Birchard, a program director for STEM3, came over and welcomed me in. I explained that I was with The Independent and that I just wanted to take some pictures and report on what the training was about.
“As long as everyone else is cool with it, I don’t see why not,” Birchard told me, after discussing any potential problems with the training’s co-leader, Mark Mastalski, who is the Director of the Leadership Center at FLC.
I looked across the room to get the approval of everyone. It was just two other women and a professor, who all agreed to be a part of the article immediately.
“As long as you get my good side,” one girl said, referring to the camera I brought with me. We all laughed.
As it started, the leaders offered me a packet and told me I would even out the numbers, seeing as how there were only three others in the class, if I joined the training as a participant. I hesitantly agreed, thinking it could come in handy someday to have the suicide prevention training in my back pocket.
The leaders started by introducing themselves. After their introduction, they showed us a video produced by QPR in 2016.
“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 800,000 people die by suicide each year,” the narrator in the video stated.
The video listed off more statistics, each one putting the terrible reality of how many suicides there are around the world into perspective, one after the other.
According to the video, effective treatment would save thousands of lives and that each and every one of us has a part to play in suicide prevention.
After the video, Birchard went on to talk through a Powerpoint presentation, which was also produced by QPR. They started off by explaining what QPR is.
“QPR is not counseling or therapy,” Mastalski said. “It is intended to offer hope through positive action and to get them to professional help.”
He explained that QPR is used to talk people out of committing suicide, and pushing them towards finding professional help or support.
After this, they went on to discuss what each letter of QPR means.
Q stands for question, which means actually asking someone if they are suicidal, thinking about suicide, or have thought about suicide recently, Birchard said.
We went through several different ways to directly ask if people are suicidal and how to talk about it comfortably. We also went over the “don'ts” of asking someone about this sensitive subject.
“Never shame anybody thinking of suicide like, ‘you’re not thinking about doing something stupid are you?’” Birchard said.
Questions like these could push the individual away from wanting to talk through it, Birchard said.
The P stands for persuade. Mastalski said this isn’t referring to you trying to persuade them away from suicide and it isn’t you trying to talk them out of doing things. Birchard told us that persuasion is for “Persuading someone to seek professional help.”
Mastalski and Birchard said that we should try having them call a suicide prevention hotline, or seeking out a school counselor.
Like Mastalski said before, QPR isn’t counseling or therapy, it is you trying to get them to get help.
Birchard said that a useful way to get them to go to the counselor is to go with them. Saying things like “Let’s go right now, I’ll go with you” or “We can go together” or “We can call the Hotline together” are ways to encourage them to seek professional help, he said.
R stands for refer, said Mastalski. This stands for referring them to the professional. After you get them to think about getting help, you offer free places for them to go. Specifically, places like Safe2Tell, which is an anonymous app that has to do with mental health and bullying, National and Local Suicide hotlines, the counseling center, or even teachers or mentors that they trust are good places and people to refer them to.
After explaining the acronym, we went through some role play to practice the skills we had just been taught.
We were given character cards with our respective situations on them and split up into groups of two. One person was suicidal and the other had to talk them into seeking help. We went through two or three role plays, switching back and forth trying to get each other to seek help.
Just reaching out in these fake scenarios made me super uncomfortable, but happy. Knowing that I have the tools to someday deal with this is really reassuring. I wasn’t even supposed to be part of this but I am so glad I was. I can’t believe I didn’t hear about it sooner.
Mastalski said that Kendra Reichle, the Coordinator of Student Wellness Initiatives, wanted this training to be accessible to everyone on campus. With the approval of President Tom Stritikus, the school paid for a few select people to get the training as a sort of “first wave” of staff to get training.
“I’d credit Becky Clausen with first bringing the idea to FLC. From there it was her, myself, Megan Wrona from Psychology and Amie Bryant, director of the Counseling Center that worked together to make it happen.” Reichle said in an email.
Since then, they have been coordinating and trying to advertise QPR training to the FLC community, Birchard said.
FLC plans to offer more of these trainings in the fall and will send out information once they are scheduled. Additionally, students can contact Allison Riggs at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Help for people having suicidal thoughts or for those who fear a person is considering suicide:
AXIS CARE HOTLINE: 24/7 local response to your crisis & behavioral health needs: (970) 247-5245.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: (800) 273-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 741741.
RED NACIONAL DE PREVENCIÓN DEL SUICIDIO: (888) 628-9454.
FORT LEWIS COLLEGE COUNSELING CENTER: 247-7212.
BOYS TOWN HOTLINE: (800) 448-3000.
SAFE2TELL COLORADO: (877) 542-7233 or safe2tell.org.
COLORADO CRISIS SUPPORT LINE: (844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 or online at coloradocrisisservices.org to access a live chat available in 17 languages. The line has mental-health professionals available to talk to adults or youths 24 hours a day.
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION: Colorado chapter information available at afsp.org/chapter/afsp-colorado/.
FOR MEN: A website for adult men contemplating suicide is available at mantherapy.org.