The Herald Bulletin

May 14, 2013

Be ready to talk, listen to prevent suicide

Maier says residents should not be afraid to ask questions

By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. —  Local residents should have a working knowledge of how to talk to someone contemplating ending their life, according to the newly-formed Madison County Suicide Prevention Coalition. By using the following method they have developed, the coalition believes lives may be saved.

Called QPR, which stands for question, persuade, respond, the method requires little more than open ears and a willingness to help others.

Question:

“If you see deterioration in someone’s appearance or their health or notice them becoming isolated or behaving differently, you need to ask how a life change is affecting them,” said Susie Maier, director of outpatient services for Aspire, Indiana Behavioral Health System. “That gives you the ability to listen for an invitation. People considering suicide will often provide an invitation to talk about it.”

These invitations are offered in statements such as: “I feel like I’m a burden” or “There is nothing left for me anymore.”

People may show a physical change, show signs of depression or have a dip in energy level. Emotional outbursts, withdrawn behavior or an increase in crying may indicate problems.

Simply ask what they are thinking or how they are feeling.

“We often find ourselves in this position with a friend going through a rough time,” said Maier. “Sometimes we are afraid to ask that question — whether they are contemplating suicide. I don’t know why. We need to ask.”

If the answer indicates danger, keep the questions coming, such as: “Why are you thinking about dying?” Maier insists that they always have a specific reason.

Persuade:

Once you have discovered the reason a friend is thinking about dying, provide reasons for them to think about living.

“There is always something in the reason for dying that is a reason for living,” she continued. “If they think they are a burden to the family, remind them how much they love their kids.”

Refocusing attention on the positive can alter perspective.

Respond:

Ask about their suicide plan and then work to disable it. If they intend to use a gun, separate them from their firearm for the time being to allow time and space to affect their decision.

“Make commitments for them to call their pastor or close friend or therapist,” said Maier. “You don’t have to do it all yourself, you just need to make a plan with them and later check on them to be sure they are following through. It’s all about trying to get them to the next place.”

With a population that is able to be open and caring with one another and offer resources to people in need, community leaders expect the suicide rate to decrease.

“This is a doable thing in Madison County,” she added.