Youth United Way helps fight suicide with funding | CraigDailyPress.com

Youth United Way helps fight suicide with funding

Moffat County Youth United Way members tap Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide as one of the grant recipients

Michael Neary

— One use of the grant money allocated by Youth United Way of Moffat County is to help continue a suicide prevention program conducted by Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, which operates in Routt and Moffat counties.

The program, called Question, Persuade, Refer, or QPR, is designed to train people to act as first responders when someone is in danger of committing suicide, said REPS Executive Director Meghan Francone.

"I don't train people to be counselors," said Francone, who provides the training in Moffat County. "I train them to be first responders."

Francone received certification from the national QPR Institute to conduct the training, and she's been offering training in Moffat County since about 2012.

Francone offers the training several times per year at Moffat County High School, Colorado Northwestern Community College and at various places throughout the community — including nonprofit agencies and workplaces, such as mines. Francone said she helps people to recognize certain fundamental signs that might be present in someone who is suicidal, and then to persuade them "to live long enough to get help."

Stuart Handloff, who does grant-writing and administrative work for REPS, said the organization has been more effective at reaching Moffat County residents since the hiring of Francone a Moffat County resident, as executive director in 2014.

Recommended Stories For You

"We've been much more aggressive with our training programs and our involvement in the community," Handloff said.

Francone said when she provides QPR training, she engages people in discussion about why rates in Moffat County have been as high as they have. She said some factors are the same nationwide, but noted long and cold winters, coupled with high elevation, can create particular emotional strain. She also noted a social atmosphere in which seeking mental health help can be considered taboo.

"It's not deemed OK to turn to your friend or neighbor and say, 'I'm having a rough time,'" Francone said. "We're losing people because of that."

She also noted the immediate access to lethal means — firearms — that's prevalent in the county. Francone said her goal during trainings is not to convince people not to own guns, but to keep them locked and inaccessible to those who might do themselves harm.

Citing data from 2008 to 2012, Francone said firearms provide the means for more than three-quarters of suicides in Moffat County. REPS has begun what it calls the Gun Shop Project to work to keep guns away from emotionally vulnerable people.

"It's up to the gun owners' community to be our brothers' keepers," said Francone, who said she owns guns.

Francone raises the issue when she does QPR training with students.

"I say, 'Who has guns in their homes?' and a lot of hands go up. Then I say, 'Who has unlocked guns in their homes?' and a lot of hands are still up," she said.

A key goal of the training, she said, is to start conversations in homes that will raise awareness — and make it more likely guns will be locked and kept out of reach of people who are vulnerable.

"I lost my brother-in-law to suicide by firearm because a gun wasn't locked up," she said.

Francone noted evidence this training, along with the more specialized Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, has reaped results. She said there were fewer Moffat County suicides in 2015 than in previous years.

Francone said this is the first time REPS has applied for funding help to offer the QPR training in Moffat County.

"We hadn't asked for the funding because we wanted to make sure it was going to make a difference and it was going to be accepted," she said.

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.