QPR: CPR for Suicide Prevention

  • One of the many faces of Ellen Eggert, Suicide Prevention Educator. [photo by Patric Hedlund]

    One of the many faces of Ellen Eggert, Suicide Prevention Educator. [photo by Patric Hedlund]

When Hope Matters Most: Question, Persuade, Refer

By Patric Hedlund

“Ask!” is the message Ellen Eggert most passionately seeks to convey to those she trains in suicide prevention.

“If you are with someone you feel is in crisis, don’t be abstract, don’t hesitate, don’t be judgemental, just ask in plain language: ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’”

To ask is to show you care, the suicide prevention educator said, “and caring can save a life,” she told the workshop of about 20 community members at the Frazier Park Library Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Earlier in the day Eggert trained a small group of students to serve as peer counselors at Frazier Mountain High School. FMHS Principal Sarah Haflich coordinated the outreach and training for her students, FMHS teachers and the community during Suicide Prevention Week.

Three Kern County firefighters and the president of the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees joined the workshop group.

Eggert speaks with the passion of personal experience. She became a certified grief recovery specialist following the suicide of her own twin brother. He killed himself 12 years after the siblings’ older brother had also taken his own life. Alcohol and drug abuse often partner with thoughts of suicide, Eggert said. Access to firearms and ammunition is also a risk factor for what is often an impulsive act in a moment of despair.

Eggert wove her personal stories through a convincing lesson on the urgency of developing greater community knowledge about preventing suicide.

Elders and teens have been statistically the most likely to kill themselves, but recently the number of middle-aged ‘baby boomers’ committing suicide has risen sharply. The Centers for Disease Control report that the number of men in their 50s dying from suicide is now greater than those dying in car accidents. Despite the fact that it was vastly underreported, suicide in 2009 had become the third most frequent cause of death in the United States for young people ages 15-24.

Local suicides of adults and youths have alerted the community and the school district to the urgency of developing greater tools for effective intervention and prevention.

“Who in this room has ever felt hopeless?” Eggert asked. Nearly every hand in the room went up. “Most people who consider suicide do not really want to die,” she said, “but they want the pain to stop. Imagine the floor, ceiling and all the walls of this room are on fire and there was just one door you can see for escape…that is what suicide can look like for someone who is suffering.”

Eggert told about “QPR,” a program she calls “CPR for suicide prevention.”

QPR stands for “Question, Persuade and Refer.” Asking the question is the first step; helping to persuade the person there is hope through the immediate crisis is the next; then referral to help for the depression that often leads to thoughts of suicide is vital.

Reach the suicide crisis hotlines at 1-800-991-5272 and 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255).

Photo captions:

About 20 residents attended a suicide prevention workshop on September 18 at the Frazier Park Library.

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This is part of the September 27, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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