Dorms host suicide prevention workshops

By Claire Desmarais | April 26, 2018 11:25pm

Mental health has been at the heart of campus conversation for the past few years at the University of Portland. Photo by Ben White via Unsplash.

In 2016, 44,965 people died by suicide according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And Oregon has the 16th highest rate for suicide in the United States. 

It could affect you, or someone you may know. Some people might not know the warning signs for someone thinking about suicide. But the best way possible to address this issue is to openly talk about this often uncomfortable topic. 

On Tuesday April 17, students gathered in Mehling Hall to listen to Mandy Kubisch, a behavioral health prevention coordinator for Multnomah County, discuss suicide prevention in conjunction with the Health and Counseling Center and Residence Life. The presentation was called QPR — question, persuade and refer — which is a type of suicide prevention training. Kubisch talked about warning signs, how to ask the tough questions and what to do when someone is having suicidal thoughts. 

The event is one of three presentations. Similar sessions were held in Christie Hall and Lund Family Hall. 

Similar to how CPR is a way to help someone before having a professional intervention, QPR is meant to be the first steps in helping someone you know. 

Kubisch explained that typically when someone is considering suicide, they have a perceived burdensome on those around them and thwarted belongingness (not feeling a sense of belonging). And an acquired capability because humans have an innate nature to not take one’s own life. 

Acquired capability can be “eroded” because of trauma, childhood trauma or provocative experience, like working in law enforcement, emergency rooms or the military. 

Once these three things happen, a person may begin to show warnings signs, though many do not know what these look like. There are behavioral cues, situational cues and direct or non-direct verbal cues. 

Behavioral cues:

  • Stockpiling pills 
  • Giving away money or prized possessions 
  • Angry or violent outbursts
  • Sudden interest or disinterest in religion 
  • Relapse into drug or alcohol use after a period of recovery 

Situational cues:

  • Sudden rejection of a loved one 
  • Unwanted separation or divorce
  • A recent move, especially if unwanted 
  • Diagnosis of terminal illness 
  • Sudden unexpected loss of freedom 
  • Anticipated loss financial security 

Non-direct verbal cues:

  • “I’m tired of life.”
  • “What’s the point of going on?”
  • “Who cares if I’m dead anyway?”
  • “I just want out.”
  • “You would be better off without me.”

Direct verbal cues:

  • “I’ve decided to kill myself.”
  • “I wish I were dead.”
  • “I’m going to commit suicide.”

After learning the warning signs, people are more equipped to know what someone close to them may be really feeling. 

The question part of QPR challenges people to ask someone who may be showing these signs: “Are you thinking about suicide?”

More often than not, someone will give the truth as to what they are feeling if asked directly, said Kubisch. And she noted that it’s a common misconception that asking about suicide increases the risk someone will commit suicide. So, ask the question.

And if the person answers with yes, then QPR suggests to persuade the person to seek help. This requires active listening on your part and full attention to let the person express all their feelings. Also, to not pass judgement and control your own fear to focus on the other person. 

And finally, refer the person. This can be taking the person to a professional (preferred method), helping the person make an appointment and follow-up with them or asking the person to make a promise to seek help. 

It isn’t easy to do these steps, but it can be effective and have a tremendous impact on someone else’s life. To get rid of the stigma surrounding suicide, Kubisch said people need to have these uncomfortable discussions and ask the uncomfortable question: “Are you thinking about suicide?”