NEWBERRY — Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death in America? Or that for every 25 people who attempt suicide, one is successful?
But more importantly, there is an educational technique called Question, Persuade, Refer that can help people who know someone dealing with suicidal thoughts keep that person from becoming a statistic.
Tony Johnson, executive director of Mental Health America Region 1, was at Westview Behavioral Health Services recently to talk about QPR, a technique taught through Mental Health America. The event was sponsored by the Newberry Coalition on Underage Drinking.
“Suicide is the most complex and difficult to understand of all human behavior,” Johnson said. “Suicidal people are just like you and me. They have problems and we have problems. The difference between us is that, for the moment, we feel we can handle our problems and do not feel overwhelmed by them.”
Causes of suicide can include depression, being impulsive, crying out for help, acute distress, despair or hopelessness about the future and a desire to end it all. Direct and indirect verbal cues can include wanting to be dead, being tired of life or saying someone will regret how someone else treated them.
Suicide thoughts happen during personal crises, unrelenting stress, depression or when people are confronted with a fear of failure or the specter of unacceptable loss, he pointed out. Alcohol can make depression worse since it impairs thinking and judgement and increases impulsively.
QPR addresses three areas: Question, Persuade, Refer.
The Question part involves asking the person about suicidal thoughts. While it is the most important step, Johnson said, it is also the most difficult. This can be done directly or indirectly and in a private setting. Plenty of time needs to be allotted for the talk.
The Persuade part is important in getting someone help. Listening is important and can be life saving, he said, adding it can be priceless.
“When someone is feeling suicidal and needs to be persuaded to get help, the gift of listening becomes priceless,” said Johnson.
Steps to becoming a better listener include giving one’s full attention, not interrupting or only speaking when the person has finished, not rushing to judgment or condemnation and taming one’s own fear to focus on the other person.
It’s important to know that suicidal people agree to help but do not always get help, so asking for a promise or commitment to get help conveys honor and people are more likely to say yes.
However, when someone refuses to get help, contact authorities or call 1-800-suicide as a resource.
“Calling police is the next level and can be the last resort,” said Johnson.
The Refer part is about referring the suicidal person for help. Referrals happen best when people take the person to a mental health provider or a professional, when the person keeps bis or her word and sees someone or agrees to see someone in the future. The suicide hot line is recommended for assistance.
“If you live long enough, you will have stressful moments,” said Johnson. “No matter what you’re going through, there is a way out. The main thing is to get to that point.”
Johnson also said there are healthy ways that can be unhealthy if they become addictive. He also said stress relief is not a not a one time fix but must be a lifestyle to keep stresses down.
Examples offered included breathing techniques, exercise, taking time for one’s self, talking with friends and having a safety net, and any other activity that is calming.
“It’s important to take 30 minutes daily for yourself,” said Johnson.