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Question, Persuade, Refer

By Staff | Mar 21, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT Kim Marman, special education program director and assistant professor at University of Mary, makes a presentation to about 70 area educators on Wednesday at Wolford School. Marman and Mandan Police youth work coordinator Heidi Schuchard spoke about how the QPR program for suicide prevention.

WOLFORD – About 70 area educators and community members met at Wolford School on Wednesday to learn more about suicide prevention.

A pair of speakers from the Bismarck-Mandan area presented the audience with a strategy to help save lives. The simple message involves the catchy acronym QPR, which purposefully sounds like CPR. The letters stand for Question, Persuade and Refer.

“Not every suicide is the same,” said Kim Marman, the special education program director at University of Mary. “Not every individual is the same. Each situation has to be looked at differently, but they can be approached in a similar way.”

Marman, joined by Mandan Police youth worker Heidi Schuchard, discussed the importance of finding the right help for people considering suicide. The first part to getting people the right professional help is questioning them. If a teacher, friend or family member sees a peer in distress, they are encouraged to calmly ask that person if they are depressed, and in some instances if that person is having thoughts of attempting suicide.

“It’s usually more difficult for someone to acknowledge those feeling than for us to ask them the question,” Schuchard said. “Don’t ask in a negative statement because that can shaming.

“You’re not planting a thought. If you have that feeling about someone (completing suicide) it’s because they’ve given you warning signs.”

The speakers also encouraged the crowd to avoid negating one’s feeling. If a person acknowledges depression or suicidal thought, a peer shouldn’t say things like, ‘No, you’re not.” Instead, the next step is to persuade. Listening is a big part of persuading someone against harming his or herself.

Marman shared a story of a former high school student, who grew distant and began failing classes. The student stopped seeking counseling and the night before Marman asked the question about suicide (her first time using QPR), the student had attempted to take her life. Marman was shocked, but her direct and conscientious questioning helped the student open up and agree to seek professional help. Marman said the girl went on to excel and is even pregnant seven years later.

“Youth can struggle to see past short periods of time,” Schuchard said. “The frontal lobe of the brain isn’t done maturing.”

Refer is the third step in QPR and not always an easy one in rural North Dakota. As the oil boom continues, hospitals and other facilities with mental health professionals are maxed out. In Bismarck, people seeking immediate help may have to wait two to three weeks. That means in rural towns across the state people, who already have to travel considerable distances for such services, are less likely to be seen in a reasonable time frame.

If there are waits, the speakers said a good strategy is to ask the person considering suicide to promise he or she won’t harm themselves. Often times, the peer or person using QPR will have to physically take someone to professional assistance.

“Your willingness to listen and to help can rekindle hope and make all the difference,” Schuchard said.

The pair used the word completed instead of committed and explained that survivors and family members have asked for that change.

School districts represented at the event included Wolford, North Star, TGU, Dunseith, Rolette and Rugby. The Rolla Crisis Residential Unit and residents of Wolford attended.

“We can always get better,” Rugby secondary principal Jared Blikre said. “In Rugby we have Sources of Strength and we have some strategies, but we’re always looking to get more education.”

Wolford principal Joel Braaten said the event served a great reminder to be vigilant.

“It shows a lot of people are concerned and want to be more proactive than reactive,” Braaten said.

For more information on QPR visit qprinstitute.com.

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