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Suicide Prevention and Awareness: Your Role in the Prevention of Suicides at ISU

Posted March 2, 2009

As part of the second annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week at Idaho State March 9-13, Hillary Locke, licensed psychologist for the ISU Counseling and Testing Center, has written the following piece addressed to all ISU faculty and staff.

Your Role in the Prevention of Suicides at ISU

By, Hillary Locke, Psy.D.

Suicide is a national concern that has been invading college campuses at an ever increasing rate and Idaho State University is not immune. Every day it is estimated that 85 individuals commit suicide in the United States alone and for every death by suicide there are 25 suicide attempts. Suicide has climbed to the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24 with ‘accidental deaths’ ranking second.

At ISU Counseling and Testing Service, we are on the front lines in terms of managing mental health crisis and supporting mental wellness. Faculty, staff and students that we talk to are often surprised when they hear how vulnerable our community is to depression and other mental heath concerns with one individual stating, “I thought our campus was somehow buffered from all that.”

The truth is that we are in a national, regional and personal war against suicide with our focus on not only saving lives but on ending stigma toward suicide and other mental health concerns. How are we supposed to prevent suicides when a majority of well intentioned people do not recognize that this problem exists right here at ISU?

Interpersonal research on suicidal communications among significant others has shown that one of the most common responses of friends and family members to a threat of suicide is no response even though, 90 percent of people thinking about taking their lives have communicated their intentions to others. If you suspected that a friend was suffering from pneumonia or a broken leg, you would most likely do something to intervene. Peoples’ response to a possible suicide crisis tends to be much more complicated, though it does not have to be.

Most people have not been educated on the warning signs and symptoms of suicide and there fore do not know what to look for when anticipating whether someone they know is at risk for suicide. Most people do not know how to talk to someone about suicide and most people struggle with how to get help for someone that they feel could be at risk. One common myth about suicide is the thinking that if I talk to the person about suicide, I might make him or her feel worse, or worse yet, I might put the idea in his or her head. This myth is simply not true. In fact, most individuals who attempt or complete suicide are ambivalent about the act of taking their own life up until the point that they attempt or complete suicide. Most individuals want desperately to be helped and saved from the pain, but in feeling trapped or stuck begin to think that suicide may be the only option. Most suicidal individuals enter that point in which they actually intend to take their own lives only briefly until the state of crisis is over.

Suicide can be stopped with basic training in the a) warning signs, b) ways to talk to a suicidal individual, and c) places to refer him or her for immediate help. While ISU Counseling and Testing Service will remain on the front lines of suicide prevention it is essential that you educate yourself about the ways that you can help. We are offering a certified suicide prevention training (Question, Persuade, Refer [QPR]), to all students, faculty, and staff. This 90-minute training is designed to help provide the critical skills necessary for non-mental health professionals when faced with a possible person/student of concern. QPR training is free to all faculty, staff, and students and includes information on:

•    The problem of suicide nationally, and locally

•    Common myths and facts associated with suicide

•    Warning signs of suicide

•    Tips for asking the suicide question

•    Methods for persuading suicidal individuals to get help

•    Ways of referring at risk people to local resources

•    AND time for Questions and Answers

We hope that you take advantage of this important and crucial training.  In doing so you will learn that individuals who are at risk for suicide are not that different from someone in physical pain; emotional pain can be harder to see if you’re not looking.

For more information about QPR or ISU Counseling and Testing Services in general, contact Hillary Locke, Psy.D. at ISU Counseling and Testing Service (208-282-2130) or e-mail at lockhill@isu.edu.

You can find information on how to sign-up for a QPR training on our website @ www.isu.edu/ctc/qpr.html.