WILMINGTON — Can you spot the warning signs of a suicidal individual? Would you know what to do to help prevent it?
Those were the discussion topics during two special QPR suicide prevention classes on Wednesday at City Hall.
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, Barbara Adams Marin, a prevention supervisor at Solutions, held the classes because suicide is one of the nation’s “biggest public health issues.”
“It has been increasing the past few years instead of going the other direction,” said Marin. “We believe that this is a preventable cause of death.”
QPR is a suicide prevention technique which stands for “Question. Persuade. Refer.” According to a QPR booklet given at the classes, “QPR is designed to help you save a life. QPR consists of these three skills: Question a person about suicide; Persuade someone to get help; and, Refer someone to the appropriate resource.”
Marin, along with the two presenters, also from Solutions, compared QPR to CPR or the Heimlich maneuver, in that it’s something easily learned by anything and could help save a life.
The presenters —Tazeen Ahmed and Keersten Lindeman — started the presentation by talking about three barriers of suicide prevention: silence, stigma, and shame.
“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about suicide. It’s kind of a hush word,” said Lindeman. “There’s also a stigma wrapped around suicide. And sometimes people are ‘shameful’ to talk about it or they’re scared to tell their parents because they don’t want to bring shame to their family.”
Ahmed then talked about the phrasing of “committing suicide.” In particular the use of the word “committed” and how it’s associated with phrases like, “committing a crime.”
“It comes off as something wrong,” said Ahmed. “We want to be careful of the phrases we’re using.”
During the presentation, they also talked about the warning signs of suicide, including direct verbal clues —“I decided to kill myself” — which can sometimes be discredited.
“You never want to take it lightly,” said Ahmed.
They also discussed indirect verbal clues such as “I’m tired of life” and “My family would be better off without me”, along with behavioral and situational clues.
A behavior clue may include stockpiling pills, putting personal affairs in order, and giving away money or prized possessions. Situational clues can include the death of a loved one or anticipated loss of financial security.
“But … people have their different reasons. So, it may be a major life event that triggers it. It all depends on the situation,” said Lindeman.
Ahmed added that a lot of times it can be a temporary situation but the person may see it through an “extremely narrowed lens.”
When it comes to putting QPR in motion, they suggested to the attendees to not sit around and wait.
“If in doubt, don’t wait,” said Ahmed. “If the person is reluctant, be persistent.”
They highlighted that, when asking a person about their feelings, you should should be respectful, not make it about themselves, make sure there’s plenty of time to talk, have resources handy, and make sure you ask them the right way — whether directly or indirectly.
They did indicate several ways to not ask the individual, including, “You’re not suicidal are you?” and “You’re not going to do something crazy, are you?”
“It’s important to make sure you’re not blaming them or judging them,” said Lindeman. “You want to ask them in a kind way to show that you’re there for them.”
All this leads to the Persuade element, showing that you care, you’re not diminishing their pain, and you’re listening to them. Then with Referral, they said you should assist them in finding help and maybe even offer to accompany them to a session.
For additional info on QPR, visit www.qprinstitute.com.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574