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‘QPR’ Offers Suicide Prevention Training



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“Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Asking such a direct question can be hard, said Kathy Hanley, behavioral health director with the Western CT Coalition. “The direct approach is the way to go,” she said. “The direct approach is best. Be prepared for the answer; it’s not easy.”

At roughly 4 pm in C.H. Booth Library’s lower conference room on January 16, the 18 people gathered turned to one another in a role-playing scenario to ask each other this and similar questions, such as, “Have you ever wanted to stop living?” “Have you been unhappy lately?” “Have you been so unhappy you wish you were dead?”

Both the direct and indirect questions are the first step in suicide prevention, according to the “question, persuade, and refer,” (QPR) Gatekeeper Certification course in progress that afternoon. Participants received a certificate for their QPR course in suicide prevention. The course is designed to teach community members “what you can say and do to help,” according to a flyer.

Gathered around the table were people including First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, Chelsea Preneta with Newtown Youth & Family Services, Newtown Health Director Donna Culbert, Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold, Newtown Police Department Captain Christopher Vanghele, members of school staff, students, counselors, and others who completed the afternoon program.

Handing out a brochure, Ms Hanley talked about the meaning of QPR. “Question a person about suicide. Persuade the person to get help. Refer the person to resources,” the pamphlet states. “QPR is not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment. QPR is intended to offer hope through positive action and to teach those who are in a position to recognize the warning signs … to act … to prevent a tragedy.”

Newtown Prevention Council sponsored the event.

Introducing the QPR Gatekeeper training, which included videos and brief lecture, Ms Hanley said, “Anyone can assist someone feeling hopeless and suicidal. QPR teaches people how to intervene,” she said.

The course started with the video, which indicated “Most of us are touched by suicide … suicide is preventable.”

Some statistics show that there is a suicide every 11 minutes, or 29 per day in the United States. Ms Hanley said that suicide survivors are “at risk of suicide,” and she recommended a “team” of people to provide grief resources following a suicide to “prevent additional deaths.”

Suicide touches all of the population, from school students to senior citizens, according to statistics. In a classroom of 30 children, Ms Hanley said, some are feeling sad, may be thinking of hurting themselves, and some will attempt suicide.

Statistics say “there may be at least one adult they will talk to,” she said.

Among materials the day’s participants received was a business card with two cartoon-like figures on the front. One figure stood beneath a cone of warm yellow light, reaching a portion of that light toward a huddled blue figure with no light of its own. Above it was the message “Be the 1 to start the conversation.”

Inside the card were “Suicide Warning Signs,” and the suggestion to take “immediate action” if someone is threatening to hurt or kill oneself, looking for ways to kill oneself, seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means, talking or writing about death, feeling hopeless, feeling rage or anger, acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, feeling like there is no way out, increasing alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from friends, experiencing dramatic mood changes, seeing no reason for living, or having no purpose in life.

The back of the card says, in bold, “Suicide is preventable.”

Raising another problem with someone who may be thinking about suicide, Ms Hanley said, “Someone in a dark place may not want to share.”

Another short video stated that it “takes courage to reach out to someone considering suicide.” The video mentioned the “stigma” about suicide. “Those considering it don’t talk about feelings, they use indirect language; they hint and suffer in silence.” According to the video, QPR “teaches you to talk with them about it.”

Listening is a way of offering hope to someone, Ms Hanley said. “QPR. It’s about showing people you care and how to refer someone to seek treatment and offer hope.”

She named as myths the ideas that no one can stop a suicide, that thoughts of suicide can be put into someone’s head, that confronting someone increases risk, or that only professionals can prevent suicide.

“There is hope for recovery,” Ms Hanley said. “Opening a conversation could bring relief [to a suicidal person]. It’s everybody’s business to prevent suicide.” She added, “Even if someone says something like, ‘Oh, I just want to kill myself,’ and it’s flippant, have further discussion. Take that seriously.”

More signs of someone at risk include verbal clues such as, “I wish I was dead,” “I want to end it all,” “If I don’t pass this test I’ll kill myself,” “They would be better off without me,” and, “Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me.”

“Take these seriously,” Ms Hanley said.

Suicidal triggers could include being fired from a job, a relationship break-up, death of a family member, fear of punishment, facing prison, loss of finances, and fear of being a burden, she said.

Suggesting that people intervene and “start the conversation,” Ms Hanley said, “If in doubt, don’t wait. Be persistent. Have the talk privately. Listen. Be patient.”

She said, “Persuade them that suicide is not an option. Give them your full attention,” she said. “Offer hope any way you can.”

You can offer to go with them to get help, Ms Hanley said. Ask someone, “Will you let me help you?” Offer the person help or offer to call a suicide hotline or refer them to someone who can help, she said.

“The evidence is clear — showing that you care and giving a person a chance to talk is half the battle,” Ms Hanley said.

Suicide intervention offers “hope to the hopeless,” she said. “Imagine how awful someone feels if they think death is the only option.”


*Contact crisis intervention services by calling 211. Find more information at preventsuicidect.org.

*National Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Veteran’s Crisis Line: 800-273-8255.

*Suicide Prevention/Crisis Textline: 741741.

*The Trevor Project (crisis intervention for LGBTQ people ages 13-24): 866-488-7386.

*CT Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement Confidential Line: 203-848-0320.

*Survivors of Suicide: survivorsofsuicide.com.

*American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org.

*Grief Recovery: www.griefrecoverystartshere.com.

*Resource numbers include 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) and 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433).

Learn more about the Western CT Coalition at wctcoalition.org. Learn more about the Newtown Prevention Council at newtownprevention.org, and learn more about Newtown Youth and Family Services at newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org.


Chelsea Preneta, Newtown Youth and Family Services; Donna Culber, Newtown Health Department; Kendra Bobowick, The Newtown Bee; Colden Bobowick, Newtown Prevention Council (Youth Peer Advocate); Alyssa Cole, Newtown Center for Support and Wellness; Natalie Jackson, Newtown Human Services; Amy Mangold, Newtown Parks and Recreation; Chris Vanghele, Newtown Police Department; Abby Wood, Western CT Coalition; Joan Santucci, Bethel Visiting Nurse Association; Martha Shilstone, Newtown Youth and Family Services/Newtown High School; Ian Yorty, Newtown Youth Academy; Anne Dalton, Newtown High School; Dan Rosenthal, Newtown First Selectman; Catherine Findorack, C.H. Booth Library; Melissa McShane, social worker.

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