Summit County Health Department invites public to suicide prevention trainings
One of the myths that the Summit County Health Department wants to dispel about suicide is the notion that discussing it will put the idea of committing it in someone’s head, according to Alyssa Mitchell, a health educator with the Health Department.
“They are either thinking about it or not,” she said. “Some people think that, ‘Oh my gosh, if we talk about it they may consider doing it.’ But, for people who are thinking about it, it is actually a sense of relief that someone recognized they are struggling.”
Debunking myths about suicide, as well as encouraging individuals to talk openly about the mental health struggles they are experiencing, will be among the topics discussed at the Health Department’s upcoming suicide prevention training session. The three-step method that will be taught is based on the philosophy of: question, persuade and refer (QPR).
Certified staffers from the Health Department, as well as volunteers from Valley Behavioral Health, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Peace House and the county’s three school districts, will be leading the QPR training sessions scheduled over the next several months. The first session is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Sheldon Richins Building in Kimball Junction. Mitchell and Mary Christa Smith, the Communities that Care coordinator, will host the first session.
The trainings are intended to address the growing number of people in the county who struggle with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. More than 8,000 adults in the county have admitted to living with mental health issues, but the number is estimated to be higher, Mitchell said. Almost 25 percent of students have contemplated or considered suicide within the last 12 months, an alarming statistic considering that suicide is the leading cause of death for children between the ages 10 to 17, she said.
“Mental health (problems) and suicide is much more common that people think,” Mitchell said. “This is about recognizing the warning signs around it.”
She likened QPR training to CPR. She said people perform CPR or give chest compressions to someone long enough for medical personnel to arrive and take over.
“QPR is along the same lines,” she said. “It is providing and allowing an individual to talk openly about the struggles they are having and then referring them to help until they can go see a professional. We are not making people therapists. We just want them to have an easy tool and resource if they see someone is struggling.”
The hour-long training session will also include information about verbal and behavioral signs that someone is contemplating suicide, as well as the actual QPR method. Participants will be given the QPR information booklet to take home, as well as information about resources that are available in the county. The training is free and open to anyone 13 and older.
The QPR Institute established the QPR program after extensive community trainings and tests. Mitchell said it is the only program the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recognizes as successful. She said the Health Department adopted it because it is evidenced based and comes at a relatively low cost.
The Summit County Council has provided funding for the Health Department to host the sessions. Nearly 900 people have attended QPR trainings in the past, and Mitchell expects that number to continue to grow. Sessions will be held every month through December in various areas of the community, including Kamas, Coalville and Park City. Some of the sessions will also be held in Spanish.
Aaron Newman, the Health Department’s mental health and substance abuse coordinator, said the QPR trainings are part of the overall conversations that are being had to address mental wellness.
“QPR is a tool that everyone in our community should learn — grandparents, parents, doctors or first responders — like everyone should learn CPR,” he said. “This is that tool. You’re not going to be a therapist that is working with them, but you are there to help save that life. You do that by providing hope to the individual by having these questions and building that rapport to persuade them not to do harm to themselves.”
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