Valley Insight: TVS Battles Local ‘Suicide Epidemic’

(Photo provided)

(Photo provided)

Article by Jon Hutton, 
Tippecanoe Valley Vice Principal

During 2013 and now into 2014 our community and neighboring communities have been home to more loss than I can remember in the 18 years since I moved to this area.

The silent epidemic of suicide has been in the forefront of the minds of many, including educators, and how best to address it has been questioned over and over. The result was the formation of the Tippecanoe Valley Community Mental Health Task Force. This group has been investigating resources and opportunities that would help make an impact on this terrible issue.

The group took its first step this year with several trainings hosted throughout the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation. The process started this summer with the transportation staff, and it was followed up with a series of training sessions for all staff over the course of the first semester. The program they were introduced to is QPR for Suicide Prevention. The initials stand for question, persuade and refer. It is not a form of treatment but a way for someone to take action.

The slogan of QPR is “Ask a question, save a life.” One of the first steps is to break down some common misconceptions about suicide. Among these are ideas such as: If I ask someone about suicide I will only make it worse; Only experts can prevent suicide; and, no one can stop a suicide, it is inevitable.

Individuals are taught about direct and indirect verbal cues that are warning signs of intent to harm oneself. Behavioral cues like depression, acquiring tools to harm oneself, putting personal affairs in order and giving away prized possessions are just a few of the examples used.

The training moves into the steps of interacting with someone you suspect has thoughts of hurting himself/herself. Participants are trained to ask questions that investigate the state of mind of the person. They use this to evaluate the need to move to the next stage, which consists of connecting with the person and persuading them to let you help them or for them to wait until you can refer them to help. The purpose is to show a willingness to help; this can give the person hope which can make all the difference.

Lastly, information is provided on the availability of local resources such as mental health professionals. National resources like the suicide hotline (1-800-suicide), the crisis call center (I-800-273-talk) as well the QPR website, www.qprinstitute.com, are examples of resources shared.

QPR training gives people tools they need to help. It enables them to see there is a path to provide support for someone in crisis and the resources to find more help if the need arises. When QPR is applied you plant the seeds of hope and hope is the greatest tool to prevent suicide.

The Tippecanoe Valley Community Mental Health Task Force will offer a QPR for Suicide Prevention training session for the community at Tippecanoe Valley Middle School at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18. The training will last approximately one hour. The public is encouraged to attend and learn what each individual in our community can do to help save lives.

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