Suicide can be prevented, despite overwhelming belief that it can’t
There’s a misperception out there that suicide simply can’t be prevented, and if someone wants to attempt suicide, there’s no stopping them.
Thanks to additional education on the topic and an understanding of what people are going through, the Center for Disease Control and the QPR Institute have come up with ways to prevent something that was once thought inevitable.
According to the QPR Institute (Question, Persuade, Refer), research shows that the majority of people who attempt suicide give some sort of warning signs, whether they’re verbal or behavioral, of their intent to kill themselves.
Those warning signs are often given in the final week preceding an attempt, according to Open Heart Advocates Director Meghan Francone.
The problem though, at least locally, is that people are afraid to get the help that they need because it may be embarrassing to them from a societal standpoint.
“People don’t utilize the resources available to them,” Daniel Bingham of Open Heart Advocates said. “We live in a society, particularly here, in which people don’t want to be seen parking in front of Mind Springs because someone is going to talk to them about that. We have to change the attitude of mental health in Moffat County, Routt County, and Northwest Colorado as a whole if we’re going to make a difference.
“We have to make it acceptable that if you have cancer, people are going to take care of you, and if you have mental health issues, people are going to take care of you. It’s not an embarrassing thing.
“One in four people have a mental health issue at any time of the year. We have the tools to combat that though. If people who are in a depressed, suicidal state know that there’s someone that will listen to them, and hear them, and talk to them, we can de-escalate that situation early. We don’t have to wait until someone calls 9-1-1 because they heard a gunshot in the bedroom.”
That ability to de-escalate starts with mental health resources being available, along with training in QPR.
According to the QPR Institute, by recognizing a suicidal person’s cries for help and offering hope through persuasion through positive action, suicide can be prevented.
The institute says that people must overcome their reluctance to become involved. Too often, those who are in a position to recognize the warning signs of a suicidal crisis either fail to see the signs, deny the meaning, or minimize these communications as “not serious.”
“We have to be able to look someone in the eye, ask them if they’re okay and mean it,” Bingham said. “Not, ‘Hi, how are you?’ in City Market and not really care. It’s if I ask you, I would really like to know what the answer is, and that’s okay.”
Aside from the signs, which can be direct verbal, indirect verbal, behavioral clues, and situational clues, people have to know how to react once they recognize the signs. That’s where QPR comes into play.
People looking to intervene when it comes to suicide have to plan a time and place to intervene, such as a way to set a time and place in private to really ask the important questions.
“When people have that time, they get help,” Francone said. “Not talking about suicide and pretending it’s not here doesn’t work.”
Due to suicide being such a taboo subject, asking the “S” question may seem awkward at first for people, or even difficult. But the truth is, according to the QPR Institute, is that you may be the best person, in the best possible position to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and to prevent suicide.
That starts with asking important questions, such as “Have you been unhappy lately?” or “Have you been so very unhappy you wished you were dead?”
Once those questions have been asked, most people thinking of suicide want to talk and open up. That’s what leads to step two of QPR: persuasion.
Persuading someone not to end his or her life and to get help begins with a very simple act: listening. It can be life saving.
“It’s hard for people in today’s society to just take the time to stop and listen,” Craig Police Department Captain Bill Leonard said. “We have to take the time and start really caring about our fellow people in this community.”
Listening may take time, patience and courage most importantly, but it’s always the right thing to do, according to the QPR Institute.
People contemplating suicide believe that the act of suicide is a solution to a problem. It’s not.
In the persuasion process, those looking to intervene have to be persistent and push the thoughts that suicide is not a solution and that better alternatives can be found. It’s important to offer hope in any form during this time.
Once the persuasion process is over, the final step is referring the person to a mental health provider or another appropriate professional.
According to the QPR Institute, most suicidal people that agree to get help act in good faith and get the help they need.
When one applies the QPR method to a suicidal situation, they’re planting the seeds of hope. According to the institute, the most important factor – hope – starts with you.