Research suggests that approximately 75 percent of people who attempt suicide do something, or say something to let others know before they act and that for every suicide, there are an average of 25 attempts of suicide. This means there are significant opportunities to intervene and provide people with help and support. Mental Health Association Oklahoma his stepping up to help all of us identify direct, indirect, situational, and behavioral clues of a person considering suicide through their Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) training program.
QPR training teaches health professionals and lay-persons to recognize and respond positively to someone exhibiting suicide warning signs and behaviors.
Like CPR, QPR uses a “chain of survival” approach to recognize early suicide warning signs.
Then, people can:
1. Question their meaning to determine suicide intent or desire
2. Persuade the person to accept or seek help
3. Refer the person to appropriate resources
“The truth is — you may be the best person, in the best possible position to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and to help prevent further steps or thoughts.”
We asked Julie Summers, MHAOK Director of Outreach and Prevention, and our Steven Williams, our Pastoral Care Chaplain few questions to learn more.
There has been a lot of talk and social media conversations about checking in with people, asking if they’re okay, etc. Why is it important to take that step to reach out?
Julie: It’s important to reach out to folks who are lonely, socially isolated and/or struggling to remind them that they are not alone in the struggle, and that someone else cares about what happens to them.
Steven: Because it’s taboo in our society to answer honestly when someone asks how we are, let alone talk about suicidal feelings and thoughts. It means that much more to someone who is struggling to be asked how they are doing and feel like the person asking wants an honest answer and cares. If everyone is avoiding reaching out to someone who is in need, then you may be the only person who is asking them if they are okay.
If someone is feeling uncomfortable, or is unsure of how to “check in” with someone they are concerned are considering suicide, what advice would you give them?
Julie: Try to be as natural and conversational as possible. For example, say something like: “You’ve been under a lot of stress lately. How are you doing?” and continue with questions that promote self-care, such as “Have you been able to do some things that are pleasant or relaxing here and there?” or “What are some of the things you are doing to take care of yourself right now?”
It can also be helpful to set up a more extended visit: “Let’s meet up for coffee and catch up this week. I’ve been wanting to check in and see how things are going for you.”
Steven: It’s better to endure the awkwardness of asking than to not ask and later wish you had. Go into it knowing that there is not a single “right way” to ask the question. If you are approaching someone from a place of love and compassion, you’re going to do fine. A good approach may be to start off the conversation with an observation. For example, “I have noticed that you seem down lately and I’m concerned about you.”
Why is it important for the “average joe” to have QPR training?
Julie: QPR (Question/Persuade/Refer) training is the mental health equivalent to CPR training: it equips people to be the immediate help for an individual until further assistance is available. Designed for lay people, QPR is a technique that anyone can learn, and they may save a life in the process.
Steven: These tools are HIGHLY important for the “average Joe” to have because all of us are in contact with human beings, and human beings sometimes suffer mental anguish and suicidal ideation. It’s so important to be able to take positive action toward linking our loved ones (or our extended, beloved community) with resources and support. This is a vital way we can take care of each other and express love beyond belief.
To schedule a QPR training for your business, school, faith community or civic organization, call call (918) 585-1213 or (405)943-3700.
MHAOK has also released a Compassionate Reporting Tip Sheet to help when addressing mental illness, suicide, homelessness, and substance use. The guide was initially created to help the media and others talk in a way that doesn’t further harm those involved or perpetuate stigmas surrounding these issues. The Compassionate Reporting Tip Sheet is helpful for all of us to develop our vocabulary and approach to helping others who are struggling.
If you find yourself or a loved one in a suicide crisis, call COPES (918) 744-4800 24/7 Crisis Line. COPES provides 24-hour rapid response, crisis intervention and stabilization for people experiencing emotional, behavioral, or psychiatric emergencies for persons who feel out of control or have thoughts of suicide, harming themselves or hurting others.
The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is also available 24/7. The service is available to anyone and all calls are confidential.
Are you or a loved one in need of pastoral care? All Souls’ Care Team has a commitment to meet the pastoral care needs of our members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call the Care Team Hotline: 918.724.TEAM (8326) Learn more about All Souls commitment to providing care and living out Love Beyond Belief, visit allsoulschurch.org.
Steven L. Williams serves as the Pastoral Care Chaplain of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Steven is a regular contributor to BeyondBelief.online and is the author of our feature stories, The Humanity of Difference and Brokenness: There is more to the story.