Question, Persuade, Refer: Three steps to help prevent suicide
It’s hard to believe that September is right around the corner and with it all of the activities both in school as well as within our communities.
One of the initiatives which we recognize in September is Suicide Awareness Month. Recent statistics report that 45,000 deaths are annually attributed to suicide and that for every one documented death there are actually 25 attempts.
While there may be various reasons why people contemplate suicide as an option, some of the key circumstances in the state of Wisconsin are diagnosed mental health problems, physical health problems, a recent crisis, financial problems, job problems or intimate partner problems.
It is also important to note that suicide does not discriminate between genders, age or ethnic backgrounds.
The one positive note is that suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death in our culture. This should give us great hope, but we as a culture need to be comfortable engaging with those who are feeling hopeless.
Rather than responding to their cries by isolating them even further, perhaps due to our discomfort with having an open discussion with them, we need to reach out and let them know they are not alone and are in fact valued members of our families and communities.
One reason we are reluctant to reach out is the feeling that we are not mental health experts and that we may do more harm than good.
This is not the case, and there are now tools which can empower us to have these conversations not in an effort to diagnose, but instead to validate the feelings that our loved ones may be having and offering a message of hope.
The protocol we have embraced here in Kewaunee County is titled QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer).
The first step in this process is just what is says, to actually confront the individual who may be exhibiting signs of suicide and asking the difficult question, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
Although many would think that this would do more harm than good, just the opposite is found to be true. Typically, those who are considering suicide are just waiting and hoping someone does actually intervene. This brings us back the statistic that for every one death by suicide there are 25 attempts, which are many times calls for help and not actions just looking for attention.
The second step is to persuade. This is where we need to take the time to stop whatever we or they are doing and have a meaningful conversation about all that is good in their lives and the many reasons they have to live, rather than the single reason they feel is bringing them to this decision.
Again, we are not trying to diagnose them, but rather help them find hope where all they see is hopelessness.
One important key in this process is to not judge. Although we may view their crisis as minimal, to them it is crushing, and trying to minimize it to them is not the answer.
The third step is to refer. This is where we get professionals involved.
What is key in this portion is the follow-through. It does no good to show concern and then walk away once the referral is made.
One of the biggest struggles for those in this state of mind is isolation. We must commit to standing by their sides not just during the initial intervention but through the weeks and months that follow as they receive the professional help they need.
If you would like to learn more about suicide prevention or group training in the QPR program, please feel free to reach out to myself or Joan Groessl at [email protected].
Matt Joski is Kewaunee County Sheriff.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Question, Persuade, Refer: Three steps to help prevent suicide