The Student Counseling Center on the campus of the University of South Dakota is currently offering free training that could save lives.
Nearly 900 individuals at USD, including both students and faculty, have undergone the free one-hour session needed to become trained in the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) program for suicide prevention.
The QPR program, developed by Paul Quinnett, a clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience working in the field of psychiatry, was first distributed to the public in 1999 through the QPR Institute. The training focuses on three main points according to the QPR Institute’s official website. These points are to “recognize the warning signs of suicide, know how to offer hope, and know how to get help and save a life.”
“QPR is where it all starts,” said sophomore DJ Smith, national president and founder of the Lost and Found student organization. Lost and Found, which was started in 2010, deals specifically with “preventing and reducing suicide and depression across the globe,” according to the group’s website.
The trainining is open to everyone, and it may be useful to people in a variety of positions.
The wide-ranging relevance of this training is reflected in the cross-section of people who have already taken the training on campus.
“We have trained 898 local gatekeepers in QPR since July 2010,” said Tiffany Kashas, coordinator of Prevention
Services and Staff Counselor at the Student Counseling Center. “Groups include but are not limited to alcohol and drug studies students, community advisers, teacher education students, Greek graduate assistants, medical school students and staff, social work students and a few USD Student Organizations.”
The need for this kind of training seems apparent, as according to the World Health Organization, suicide accounted for 4,202 deaths among 15 to 24-year-olds in the U.S. in 2005 with rates rising during the 2000-2005 period.
“If you have a friend that you think is upset, that you think may attempt something like this, you need to know how to handle it,” Smith said. “That’s why QPR is so important.”
As the QPR Institute’s website states, “QPR is a simple educational program that teaches ordinary citizens how to recognize a mental health emergency and how to get a person at risk the help they need.”
Those interested in taking part in a group training session or hosting a training should contact the University of South Dakota Student Counseling Center at 606-577-5777.
“If students are thinking about going to (the training) they should,” Smith said. “You never know when this will come in handy.”
Reach reporter Joshua Vlasman at Joshua.Vlasman@usd.edu.