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Question, Persuade, Refer: Training will introduct students to formula for preventing suicides

Students trained to recognize the warning signs of suicide — and to know how to intervene — can be the key to saving lives on at Utah State University.

That’s the concept behind a Tuesday afternoon training that will introduce students to QPR.

“I think a fair comparison to draw about QPR would be to compare it to medical training like CPR,” Utah State University Student Association graduate students senator Ty Aller said. “It provides us with a quick skill set for moments of crises that allow us to seek professional help, but to ensure we are doing all we can in the moment.”

The abbreviation, which stands for “question, persuade, refer,” is intended to help students quickly remember what to do if a friend or loved one is showing signs associated with suicide contemplation.

Through role-playing, educational videos, motivational speakers, hand-outs and a new Virtual Hope Box app, the training is intended to enlighten those who attend on a topic that is not always discussed openly. The overall goal is for more people to be trained on campus, which organizers from Counseling and Psychological Services believe will reduce the number of at-risk students.

According to the American College Health Association, the number of suicides on college campuses across the nation has tripled since the 1950s and now represent the second leading cause of death among college students, claiming more than 1,000 victims on campuses every year.

“I believe the Question, Persuade, Referral training is an excellent step in creating a more sensitively aware environment on campus,” said Ty Aller, the Utah State University Student Association graduate students senator. “The training helps provide the campus community with an understanding of the warning signs of suicidal ideation and practical solutions to help assist our students, faculty and staff to help those that are contemplating suicide.”

The QPR Institute, which developed the training program being used at USU, has worked since 1999 to help people recognize the warning signs and know how to offer help to someone contemplating suicide.

“Almost everybody at one point or another, even if they don’t want to take their life, has thought ‘I just wish I could go to sleep and not deal with this.’ We all have times when we want to avoid life so we want to normalize that and say ‘It’s OK to have those thoughts and feelings,’” said Dr. David Bush, a Utah State psychologist. “It’d be a tragedy to act on it, but wishing you could eliminate the pain is actually pretty normal.”

The point of QPR, he said, is to eliminate the stigma.

“Let’s talk about it,” Bush said. “It’s when we try to sweep it under the carpet and ignore it that it sometimes spirals out of control and increases the odds that the person feels completely alone and hopeless. So the whole idea is: let’s create hope.”

With the help of the training, Bush plans to educate students on being able to better recognize those in crisis and know how to offer their help.

The training will be held at 1 p.m. on Tuesday in the Taggart Student Center, room 310.

Brenna Kelly, Nicole Cowdell, Haley Larsen, Stephen Baker and Madison McCann contributed to this report.
-mdl