During a suicide prevention seminar on Wednesday evening at the North Logan City Library, over 40 participants worked together in roleplays and discussions, walking away with their new title as a “suicide gatekeeper.”
Charity Jenson, a health educator at Bear River Health Department, explained that a suicide gatekeeper is someone who has been trained and is aware of how to best help in suicide situations.
“Suicide can be scary, saddening and hard to discuss, which makes it easier to ignore,” Jenson said. “But it can’t be ignored. It needs to be talked about.”
The training seminar, which was presented by BRHD, was created by the QPR Institute. QPR refers to three emergency steps used to help prevent suicide: “Question. Prevent. Refer.”
Jenson said the goal is to have QPR be as commonly understood and recognized as CPR.
North Logan Mayor Damon Cann had an experience a couple years ago that opened his eyes to the importance of being prepared.
Cann works at USU and one day at work, another professor approached him after receiving an email from a student that implied they were going to take their own life.
“I’ve done a lot of different things over the course of my life, including a first aid merit badge from my Eagle Scout days,” Cann said, “but nothing I had ever experienced before in my life had prepared me for what to do in that moment. I realized that if I wanted to be as helpful to my fellow humans as I aspire to be that I needed to learn how to help in these situations a little better.”
Cann received the training along with other city officials in North Logan in the fall.
“Think of this as a first aid training for a suicide situation. We do first aid for physical situations but we don’t often know how to respond in situations of mental and emotional distress,” Cann said. “All it takes is one person who shares the right words to make all the difference and to literally save lives.”
The right words really can make a big difference, Jenson said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is in the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Utah’s suicide rate is the sixth highest in the nation. Jenson said while information is a way to prevent and decrease suicide, the words used can be destructive or instructive.
For example, Jenson said phrases like “died by suicide” should be used rather than “committed suicide.”
Jenson shared some of the myths about suicide, such as people will be upset or offended if you ask them about their intent to die by suicide or no one is able to stop suicide once somebody has decided to take their own life.
She said people are more grateful than they are offended when others recognize signs and intervene and a simple barrier can keep it from happening.
“It is so important to ask questions,” said Jeana Allen, a resident of Richmond who had heard about the event through the Cache County School District. “Just by looking at people, we can’t tell what battles they are fighting. We need to be conscientious of that and be ready to listen.”
Allen said she hopes everyone has an opportunity to be QPR-trained because it is important to know what to do in those situations. She learned that suicide is not just something that affects a certain age, it affects all ages and all kinds of people.
“The most important takeaway is to be alert of warning signs and take all signs seriously,” Jenson said.
To learn more about the warning signs and prevention tips, set up a QPR training by calling (435)792-6500.
If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.