March 30, 2018
The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard HS parent community:
Dear Bishop Chatard parents,
In my letter last week, I shared details of the QPR training presented to the Bishop Chatard staff. QPR (Question…Persuade…Refer) is suicide prevention training. It is not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment, but rather offers hope through positive action. By sharing this information, parents will be better informed and more likely to become part of our “suicide prevention team” as well.
The staff had its second and final QPR training session on Monday morning. The session began with a video intended to show that suicide has no boundaries – gender, age, race, ethnicity – suicide does not discriminate. With that sobering thought in mind, we began discussing the actual mechanics of QPR.
Asking the tough question (Q):
- There is generally only a brief window of time (2 days to 2 weeks on average) during which a person seriously considers suicide. This short window challenges us in its urgency, but also gives us confidence that our intervention can make a difference. Don’t wait – ask the question!
- Talk to the person alone in a private setting, and allow him or her to talk freely
- Have resource materials available
- Less direct approach
- Have you been unhappy lately?
- Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?
- Direct approach (most effective)
- You sound pretty miserable, are you considering suicide?
- Are you thinking about killing yourself?
- DO NOT ask, “You’re not considering suicide, are you?” – It is judgmental and puts the person in a no-win situation
- Having the person talk about it, even including methodology, makes it real and may cause him or her to reconsider
How to persuade (P) someone to stay alive:
- Give the person your full attention
- Do not judge him or her or try to “solve” what is likely a multitude of problems (that’s the job of the professionals to whom you will refer the person)
- Offer hope in any form
- Show that you care – “Will you let me go with you / assist you in getting help?”
Refer (R) them to the help they need:
- For school personnel, follow established school protocol (For BCHS – contact an administrator, who will then engage the crisis team – as well as parents and outside professional help)
- Work from a list of resources – suicide hotlines, counselors, etc.
- Don’t leave the person alone or trust him or her to follow through on getting help; ensure that it happens
- Follow up afterwards – this emphasizes the fact that you really do care; you weren’t just “doing your job”
- Almost all efforts to persuade someone to live instead of attempt suicide will be met with relief – don’t hesitate to get involved!
For effective QPR:
- Say, “I want you to live” or “I’m on your side; we’ll get through this”
- When you use QPR, you “plant the seeds of hope”
We ended our session by role playing with another staff member. Even when role playing, actually asking the question, “Are you considering killing yourself?” is very difficult to do. However, it is imperative. If you are not comfortable asking the question yourself, you must find someone who is.
As professional educators, we are careful to maintain confidentiality. However, NOT when it comes to suicide. We are obligated to do everything in our power to prevent students from harming themselves. When it comes to suicide, we must alert others in order to serve as advocates for the child. While the student may initially be angry that the adult did not keep “private” information in confidence – he or she will be alive and will eventually understand and be grateful for the help.
As we so often acknowledge, it takes a village to teach, lead, guide, and love our children.