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QPR training provides 3 simple steps to prevent suicide

The Daily Times - 9/18/2017

Recognizing the warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide and talking with that person can create a life-saving bridge.

Like performing CPR on a person who has a heart attack, with a technique called QPR - Question. Persuade. Refer.

“You’re trying to keep a person in a mental health emergency alive until they can get professional help,” registered nurse Mary Beth Blevins explained during a training session last week at the Blount County Public Library.

The Coordinated School Health coordinator for Blount County Schools, Blevins is providing training free of charge at two more events this month to anyone in a position to recognize and refer someone at risk of suicide. The training is provided by a grant through the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

“This is a very serious and difficult subject, and certainly one we need to address as a school community and community at large,” BCS Director Rob Britt said during the training last week at the library.

Other training events are scheduled at the county’s two high schools during September, National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Leading cause of death

The 14 recorded suicides in Blount County in 2015 put the local rate below the state average, according to the latest “Status of Suicide in Tennessee” report, which TSPN publishes annually.

Although the 2016 data has not been finalized, the number is expected to be higher.

The 2015 total represented a three-year decline since 2013, when 25 suicide deaths were reported in Blount County. But at several times in recent years the county’s suicide rate has exceeded the state or national average.

In 2002, 2008 and 2013, the number of suicides in Blount County was 24 or higher, and Blevins noted those were years of economic instability.

Across Tennessee, in 2015 suicide was the second-leading cause of death for youths ages 10-14 and ages 25-34, just behind unintentional injury. For Tennesseans ages 15-24, suicide was the third most common cause of death, also behind homicide.

Across all ages it was the 10th leading cause of death in Tennessee.

“Suicide doesn’t discriminate,” Blevins said. “It’s pretty much an equal opportunity destroyer.”

One in six Tennessee high school students said they have considered suicide, one in 10 have attempted it, and one in 26 have received medical care because of an attempt according to a 2015 youth risk behavior survey.

“We’re trying to really think about making school a place where if you need help, you can find it,” Blevins said, and counseling is available in Blount County schools during the school day.


During the training session, Blevins reviewed warning signs that someone is thinking about suicide, including indirect comments and giving away prized possessions.

“We take all of them seriously,” she said, and the more clues the greater the risk a person is thinking about suicide.

Some signs such as unexplained irritability can be thought of as typical teen behavior, but there are differences. For example, while it is normal for teens to withdraw somewhat from family members, it is different when they withdraw from friends.

“They should not be pulling away from their peer group,” Blevins said.

“Ninety percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness,” she said, and diagnosing such problems early can make them easier to treat and manage.

Ask the question

The first step in QPR is finding a private place and time and asking the question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

“If in doubt, don’t wait, ask the question,” Blevins said. How you ask the question is less important than that you ask it, although the more direct your wording the better.

“If you can’t ask the question, find someone who can,” she said.

Don’t ask it in a way that will make the person less likely to answer honestly, such as, “You’re not thinking about doing anything stupid, are you?”

The next step is to persuade the person to accept help.

Thinking about suicide is sign that the person has a problem he or she considers insurmountable. “Offer hope in any form,” Blevins said.

Ask if the person will go with you to get help, or at least promise not to hurt themselves until you’ve found help.

The final step is to refer the person to help, and that action depends on how severe the situation is.

“The ER is the fast track to get help,” Blevins said of a trip to the emergency room.

At a lower level of concern a person can be referred to a physician, therapist or other resource, and part of the training is providing lists of resources, from 24/7 hotlines to support groups.

“Err on the side of caution and safety,” Blevins said.

Although the discussion may be difficult, she said, you can tell the person, “I love you too much to not have this conversation.”

What: Training to recognize warning signs, offer hope and find help for someone who may be thinking of suicide

Who: Provided by Mary Beth Blevins, coordinated school health coordinator for Blount County Schools, and available to anyone in the community free of charge

When: 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at Heritage High School, 3741 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville; or 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, at William Blount High School, 219 County Farm Road, Maryville.

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-272-TALK (8255).


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