QPR method counteracts suicides

One of the numerous services provided by the college counseling service is the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) Workshop, more commonly known as Suicide Prevention Workshop.

The one-day workshop is a nationally recognized certification program that confers practical knowledge and skills necessary for getting immediate help to students who may be considering suicide.

More specifically, it teaches its participants how to question a person about suicide, persuade the person to get help and refer the person to the appropriate resources.

Dr. Christopher St. Germain, the co-organizer of the workshop, said, “The workshop teaches the participants to recognize several warning signs of suicide, distinguish myths from facts around suicide, develop tips and strategies to ask someone about suicide and are provided with appropriate referrals and connections with local resources.”

The workshop provides the skills to be a good “gatekeeper,” who is anyone in a position to recognize a crisis and warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide.

At Vassar, QPR workshops are offered three times a semester—once for student leaders during typical training periods, once for any interested students, and once for faculty, administrators and staff. QPR is also available at the request of students or particular programs. St. Germain said, “We are always willing to run QPR trainings and would love to have the opportunity to train as much of the campus as possible, including all students, faculty, and staff.”

St. Germain, who has started running the workshop at Vassar, stressed the importance of the workshop.

He said, “It is a relief for the students to know that there is a program that teaches them how to deal with others who are in potential danger.”

It is the job of the counseling service to increase the safety and support for its students, and QPR is an important part of it.

He said, “At Vassar, we really care about the students, and want to make sure that individuals who need help are provided with support, hope, and appropriate resources.

The most important thing, St. Germain said, is to remember that reaching out to someone and providing resources for them can only be helpful.

As for individuals having suicidal thoughts, there are behavioral clues (such as increased drug and alcohol use, and unexplained irritability or anger) and situational clues (such as a recent significant breakup, or failing several classes), but the QPR workshop insists that the most effective way to find out if someone is thinking about suicide is by asking them.

The QPR workshop encourages anyone who feels suicidal to meet with a counselor from the Vassar College Counselor Service so that they can receive professional care and support, even if that means escorting the student there.

He said the workshops have been successful in bringing help to students in danger and saving lives.

Vassar College offers many safety and support services, and St. Germain stresses that it is critical to talk to someone—house fellow, student fellow, house advisor, health service staff, a friend, a parent, roommate or health educator—in times of crisis.

According to the feedback provided after the workshops, the participants feel more confident in their ability to help those in danger and are excited to have new skills to deal effectively with stressful situations.

Gayhun Kim ’14, who attended the workshop last year said he now feels confident in his abilities to handle such a situation.

He said, “The workshop really equipped me with the subtleties of the skills in approaching someone who is in potential danger of harming themselves.”

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