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If someone you knew – a co-worker, loved one, friend or neighbor – was in crisis and possibly suicidal, would you know how to help? UCHealth is offering free suicide-prevention training that teaches how to recognize the warning signs, how to question somebody, and how to get help.
Addressing the high rates of suicide in El Paso County has been a growing community-wide effort for several years. According to the El Paso County Coroner’s Office, 180 people died by suicide in 2019. In 2020, there were 178 suicides, and in 2021 there were 176.
UCHealth began implementing a Zero Suicide program in southern Colorado in 2019 and then across the health system statewide in 2021. The program aims to address the mental health crisis by training and educating employees and caregivers to ask specific questions and recognize suicidal ideation in patients, loved ones, and co-workers.
Robin Schawe is the Zero Suicide Coordinator at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs tells me, “38% of people who attempt suicide saw a health care provider within a week of attempting suicide so we want to be able to do everything we can in the health care field to help stop that.”
Part of Schawe’s mindset is to look past numbers and remind us all that even one life lost to suicide is one too many. “Suicide still has very high rates, especially in El Paso County. It's your family, it's your friends, it's your co-workers and it's people you care about, and you should learn how to watch out for them.”
The free training that can help you watch out for friends, co-workers and people you care about is called, QPR, which stands for Question, Persuade and Refer.
Schawe explains: “QPR is a gatekeeper suicide prevention training. The training runs anywhere from about 90 minutes to 2 hours and we teach you the signs and clues to look for and how to question somebody if they're suicidal and how to get somebody help if they are suicidal.”
It can be a natural fear to worry that asking someone who you think might be in crisis if they are feeling suicidal will in some way encourage them to consider it. Robin says that’s not true. “Through a lot of research, what we have learned is that when you ask somebody about suicidal ideation, it actually lowers their anxiety and opens up communication with them so that they can be honest with you and you can get them the help they need.”
Part of the QPR training is to educate people on those common signs and clues in behavior that might indicate someone is in crisis, and many of those transcend age groups.
Says Robin: “What I hear a lot from family members is that while they're in middle school, they isolate themselves. They want to be alone now. Don't assume anything (about changed behavior) from somebody that you care about. Ask questions. If something has changed, reach out and say, ‘Why are you spending more time alone? Why do you not want to be with the family? What's going on?’
“You can't assume it's just a middle or high school thing. If people are giving away prized possessions, don't assume because Grandma's giving you her china, it's just because she's getting older. We have a lot of elderly population also attempting suicide in El Paso County.
“If you notice changes in behavior in a co-worker, begin asking questions. If somebody is always on time and does a fantastic job and now they're showing up late to work or not showing up at all, reach out and start asking questions. Look for things on social media; If something is alarming on social media, reach out to your friend and ask what's going on. Don't assume they're OK.”
If you would like to arrange free suicide-prevention QPR training for your business or organization, feel free to reach out to Robin. She says, “QPR is offered free to any community, businesses, churches, schools. You just contact me through e-mail and I set up a time with you. We can either do it virtually or in person and again, it takes between 90 minutes to 2 hours and we do it all for free and we provide resources for you.”
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