Health department offers suicide prevention training
It teaches QPR to members of the Park City community
July 21, 2017
Alyssa Mitchell always looks back to one example to detect if someone is in crisis.
She remembers an experience in high school in which her friend recognized a fellow student was contemplating suicide.
"One girl was suddenly packing up her locker, cleaning out all of her books and taking all her stuff home," Mitchell said. "My friend asked, 'Why are you doing that?' The girl said, 'I don't want my parents to have to come do this.'"
Now an educator for the Summit County Health Department, Mitchell trains people to recognize the clues and warning signs that indicate someone is thinking about self-harm. She conducts what is called Question, Persuade and Refer — or QPR — suicide prevention.
In May, she prepared representatives from Park City School District, North Summit School District and Park City Fire District to teach QPR.
"We had a few people from other county health departments there," Mitchell said. "We also had several people from Valley Behavioral Health come as well. It was a good solid group of people, all of whom can go out and utilize this in their work place."
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Mitchell added that, this year, she also taught the prevention strategy to a group of employees from local nonprofits.
She estimates that 900 people in the area were exposed to QPR training in 2016, and she hopes to reach just as many people, if not more, this year.
"I've reached about 200 other people," Mitchell said. "We still have plans to do QPR training."
In the fall, she will head to Park City Schools to explain QPR, which consists of three life-saving skills.
"I give people the tools to identify — either in conversation or in someone's behavior — potential warning signs for somebody who might be struggling," Mitchell said. "I then teach them how to ask the question."
The health educator stressed there are appropriate ways to ask someone if he or she is contemplating suicide.
"There are two ways we teach people how to ask the question," Mitchell said. "There is a direct approach and a less direct approach."
The direct approach can be phrased as, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?"
An example of the less direct approach would be, "You seem really stressed. Is everything OK?"
Mitchell said having the courage to ask someone if he or she wants to end his or her life is the most difficult part of QPR.
"People are often worried they're going to put the idea in someone's head if they ask the question," Mitchell said.
If someone is contemplating suicide, the next step is to persuade that person to seek help.
"Figure out what's really going on in their life," Mitchell said. "Let them know you're there to help and can create a system for them to go and receive help."
Referring a person to get help includes contacting a doctor.
"You can help the individual find a doctor or a place to go to," Mitchell said, adding there is always the option to call a crisis hotline, such as 1-800-273-TALK .
Mitchell is very passionate about her QPR work, as she believes it's important that the Summit County Health Department shine a light on mental health.
"We want people to be healthy," she said. "The mind is just another organ of the body. When people are struggling from mental illness, I view it as any other illness. It needs to be treated."
For more information on the Summit County Health Department's efforts to increase mental health awareness, visit summitcountyhealth.org.
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