QPR program helps students understand steps to suicide prevention

Emily Doran

While suicide can be a very difficult and delicate topic to discuss in everyday situations, it is certainly even harder to broach the subject with someone who may actually be considering committing suicide. Concerned friends, family or bystanders may observe someone they know or care about seems suicidal but not know how to talk to them about it in a helpful way.

The Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) program exists for just this reason: to help individuals learn the warnings signs of suicide and then equip them with useful strategies to broach the topic with someone who may be suicidal.

Given that suicide continues to be the second-leading cause of death among college students, knowing how to help someone who is suicidal is particularly relevant for members of the Grand Valley State University Community.

To address this need for education, Nicole Marganti, coordinator of case management at the University Counseling Center, gave an open presentation about the QPR methodology Tuesday Sept. 13 in the Kirkhof Center. The idea that only experts are capable of preventing suicide is a myth, she said. Instead, suicide is everybody’s concern.

“We want you to have enough skills to help someone in a crisis,” Marganti said.

During the presentation, Marganti discussed a wide range of factors which can contribute to suicidal thoughts and feelings, including exposure to a new environment and difficulty adjusting, a lack of social and coping skills, feelings of failure, a sense of alienation and a family history of mental illness.

Marganti also described some fundamental risks, such as a person’s biology or genetics, as well as various outside stressors which could contribute to someone feeling suicidal, before delving into examples of protective factors. These protective factors could include a counselor or therapist, support from friends and family, a sense of duty toward others and medication.

The presentation also provided information about suicide warning signs, which could include blatant or subtle wording to indicate someone may be considering suicide, depression, a previous suicide attempt or the diagnosis of a terminal illness, to name a few.

Marganti stressed the first step to helping someone who you think may be suicidal is to ask them directly if they are considering committing suicide. She emphasized the importance of being persistent, asking them in a private setting and having resources handy.

“Give yourself time because that person may want to share something with you,” she said.

The next important step in QPR is to persuade the suicidal person to stay alive. Marganti also said it’s important to listen and not be judgmental in this type of situation and to offer any form of hope you can.

You can use language such as “‘I care about you, I want you in my life,’” she said. “QPR is about (planting) that seed of hope.”

The final step is to refer the suicidal person to help. Ideally, this would involve taking the person directly to receive help or, second best, getting a commitment from them that they will seek help and then following through with them afterward.

According to the QPR slideshow, the idea suicide is inevitable once someone has already decided to commit suicide is a myth. Getting the appropriate help can actually drastically change the situation.

For more information about QPR or helping someone who is suicidal, visit www.gvsu.edu/counsel.