QPR suicide prevention

Program teaches skills to handle crisis situations

On Sunday February 15, a group of teens and adults gathered at St. Robert to learn about a suicide prevention method: QPR. QPR is an educational tool to better equip a person in crisis, and stands for Question, Persuade and Refer.

“Suicide is everyone’s business and we can’t be afraid to get involved and try to help,” said Amy Lovell, certified QPR trainer.

QPR teaches warning signs, risk factors, clues, how to ask the question, how to respond, how to offer someone hope and persuade them to choose life, along with providing local resources to access help. Emily Schaefer, the Youth Minister of St. Robert’s and Holy Family Parishes, and Margaret Rhody of the Archediocese of Milwaukee coordinated this event.

Lovell and Dr. Barbara Moser, member of Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee Steering Committee and family practice physician, were two QPR trainers who helped with the training.

“After jumping into REDgen and the youth ministry, I realized how important this sensitive topic is to the North Shore, and how much suicide has affected the community as a whole,” Schaefer said, “I became inspired by the need to help promote mental health awareness, suicide prevention and QPR.”

QPR is a strategy used by many local places when a loved one is concerned that someone may be thinking of suicide.

“When you are in a crisis, you need to know where to call; this training gives you that,” Lovell said.

When interacting with teens, the trainers talked about trusted adults and the teens each came up with a list of three, in case help is needed.

“We aim to provide our audiences with accurate information regarding suicide and particularly teach them the skills they can use to help prevent a suicide attempt or death,” Moser said.

Most of these training programs have been done for high school and college students, as well as adults. However, there is an approved youth version that provides information on trusted adults.

There were three main goals for the training. One, for the participants to learn the skills needed for QPR; two, for participants to understand that as youth, they always need to involve a trusted adult for help when learning that a person is suicidal; and three, to practice the skills they learned through role play.

“We did an ice breaker exercise where the students took one step forward out of their seats if they knew of someone who had attempted or died from suicide. Then the students took another step forward if they knew of someone affected by a mental health diagnosis. Finally one more step forward if they themselves were dealing with a mental health diagnosis. Not one person was left sitting in their chair at the end,” Moser said. “This is a very powerful message; we need to know … what we can do to help.”

Lovell became a certified trainer through Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee (PSGM) in November 2013, and has done many sessions since then for youth, colleges and retreats.

“I wanted to focus on training youth because so many teens go to other teens when they are struggling, not adults. QPR will help them feel more prepared when a friend is in serious emotional distress,” Lovell said.

QPR is to suicide like CPR is to cardiac events,” Lovell said. “Everyone should know it and everyone has the potential to save a life. Most people are only suicidal for a short time and asking the question, persuading and promoting hope, and referring help is usually met with relief from the person suffering.”

According to Moser, the participants had different reactions to the activities presented at the training, dependent on how much prior knowledge they had about mental health and suicide. Overall, the program was well received.

“For many, they asked very pertinent questions, like what to say to a friend in a specific situation,” Moser said.

“This program seemed to be well received by the teens and adults who came. One person actually had to use QPR the next week and thanked me for the training,” Lovell said.

by Ananya Murali and Kelly Whittle

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