QPR: three letters may help save a life

Our second workshop of the year fell on the day we woke up to a new president-elect. It was a day that was tough for many of us who are currently terrified by the outpouring of news of an uptick in hate crimes and what this means for the next four years. It was a hard day for this author, and one in which I was grateful to be part of a group that is working to encourage tolerance and celebrate our differences. Needless to say, there is much to discuss on this topic, but I’ll let someone more eloquent summarize my thoughts on the matter before moving on:

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The workshop was lead by one of our on campus specialists in suicide prevention. The basis of QPR is to both destigmatize talking to those we fear are at risk of suicide and educate the community on warning signs. This program encourages everyone to become  gatekeepers by empowering individuals to follow simple steps when they recognize a crisis or warning signs of one to come:

Question
Persuade
Refer

Warning signs include direct verbal clues such as someone stating “I wish I were dead” and indirect clues such as the statement “I’m tired of life”. Behavioral clues may include donating or giving away treasured possessions, substance abuse, sudden disinterest in religion, or a sudden upswing in mood in someone who has been depressed for a long time. Situationally, one can pay attention to sudden changes in an individual’s life for clues of their mental state.

When we hear or witness these things, the key is not to ignore it and simply hope it will go away. As a society we are generally ill-prepared to deal with negative emotions, often quietly waiting for them to pass. However, these instances represent a meaningful opportunity to connect and ask compassionate questions. The next step is to persuade them to get help by being persistent and following up. Finding a place to refer is luckily now quite easy, however, ensuring an individual gets that needed help is more difficult. Accompanying the individual to an appointment, calling them to check in, or sitting with them and discussing options are all powerful ways that we can assist those in crisis.

As nurses, familiarizing ourselves with warning signs and becoming skilled in having difficult conversations needs be part of our training. Regardless of our position, preventing suicide is everyone’s business.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
County of San Diego Access & Crisis Line: 1-888-724-7240

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