Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Kentuckians ages 10-34, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. World Suicide Prevention Day is recognized annually on Sept. 10, with this week also being recognized as National Suicide Prevention Week and the month of September being recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month.
Four Rivers Behavioral Health’s Regional Prevention Center, a private nonprofit, uses part of its budget to hire prevention specialists and assist with the mission to prevent suicides. The biggest takeaway on display inside the center: “You are not alone.”
Cynthia Turner, the center’s program director, is also one of the center’s certified prevention specialists. She works with a variety of groups like parents, hospital staff, library staff and school staff and teaches people how to approach the topic of suicide.
“Getting people more comfortable talking about it, just asking someone if they’re OK can really make a difference,” Turner said.
The conversation tool Turner teaches is called QPR, which stands for question, persuade and refer. According to the QPR Institute, people who receive QPR training learn how to recognize the signs of suicide crisis and how to convince the person to seek help. The main ideas of QPR, Turner said, are to teach people how to ask someone about whether they have thought about suicide, persuade them to seek help and refer them to local and national resources.
Turner said anyone can be trained in QPR, and training is free.
Turner also mentioned there is a correlation between people who misuse substances or have substance abuse disorders and suicide, but she added that substance problems are not always a factor in someone who is going through a suicide crisis.
Another important consideration, Turner said, is the language people use when discussing suicide and how the media report a death by suicide.
“This can be very healing for suicide loss survivors to not be seeing a death by suicide reported as a crime. We don’t want to say that individual ‘committed suicide’ or that they ‘had a successful attempt’ because that has a positive or negative connotation,” Turner said.
Another resource Turner suggested is Real Convo, a set of materials from AFSP with suggested ways to start conversations about suicide, such as asking people to share a time where they felt vulnerable or share a time they felt anxious. Conversation starters are available on AFSP’s website.
There will also be a fundraiser held at West Kentucky Community and Technical College on Oct. 2 called Out of the Darkness Paducah Walk, where participants walk to raise money for AFSP. Those interested can register and/or donate to the cause at afsp.org/Paducah.
Four Rivers Behavioral Health offers walk-in crisis services to people in need of mental health services Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Turner said you can also bring people in a crisis situation to the emergency room for an assessment.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “TALK” to 741741.
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