Difficult Conversations: Suicide Prevention Training Overview

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Unfortunately, suicide is a leading cause of death among young people. However suicide is completely preventable and many of the organization I work with offer prevention training. I know it can sometimes be intimidating to attend a training especially if you do not know anything about the topic, so I wanted to write this just to educate more people about the warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts as well as summarize a training I am familiar with. I am by no means a professional, and I encourage everyone to seek out formal training this month.

There are many signs that can indicate someone is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. If someone is displaying these signs, it is important to check in with them. The following is not an exhaustive list:

Withdrawn from social settings

Sleeping too much or too little

Lack of energy/motivation

Not eating

Alcohol or drug abuse

Talking about suicide

Displaying an attitude of hopelessness, anger, or guilt

In addition to being able to identify someone who may be struggling, it is important to know how to approach what can be a difficult conversation. Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) is a certification program that trains people how to talk to people considering suicide. I have personally underwent this training, and it is super beneficial. Below I will be going over the shorter version of this training called Ask, Listen, Refer as a general resource to start building your knowledge.

Ask: Using open ended questions are the best way to get people to open up. Lot’s of people are concerned by bringing up suicide, you may put the idea into someone’s head however this is not true. If you are sincerely worried about someone, asking directing if they are thinking about it can be a smart move. If you aren’t quite comfortable with asking directly, you can instead ask how they are feeling more vaguely. Focus on using I statements instead of making them the subject of scrutiny and instead try to point out where your concern is coming from.

Listen: It is important when addressing this conversation, you have the time and mental energy to listen. Do not bring your concerns up if you aren’t able to hear what the person has to say. Additionally, do not over talk the other person. Helping people really is a case by case thing, so you have to take their verbal and nonverbal cues. Sometimes people really just need to rant, other times they may need advice, or they may need another kind of support. By listening deeply, you will be able to figure out what you can do to help.

Refer: Finally, referral is arguably the most important part. Most of us are not mental health professionals, so it is crucial that a person gets the help they need. Referrals can look like a lot of different things. It could be sending the person resources, looking up therapists in the area, helping book a meeting to see a specialist, or even going to the appointment with them. In cases of crisis, referral can even look like calling emergency assistance and getting other loved ones involved. While not every situation may require a referral, it is always better to refer just to be proactive.

Ultimately I am not an expert, but I wanted to give an overview for anyone that doesn’t quite know where to start. Additionally, if you attend the University of Alabama, you can get QPR certified for free through the UA Counseling Center. I highly encourage anyone who cares about mental health to attend a training because one person can truly make a difference. The only way we can actually eliminate suicide is by having these difficult conversations, and training really does make it less intimidating.

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great September. I am back with new monthly blog posts, so another one will be posted in a few weeks. I am especially looking for more guest writers. Please reach out if you would be interested in writing, or if someone you know may have a unique perspective relating to mental health topics. I would love to get as many people involved as possible. Also, be sure to be checking my #a_MAE_zing as some exciting things are in the works! Stay tuned!!

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