BYU is taking a stand against suicide by training faculty and students through Question Persuade Refer (QPR), an emergency mental health response program.
Question Persuade Refer’s purpose is to help individuals become certified “gatekeepers,” or specialists who can identify and interrupt a suicidal crisis and direct a person to proper care. The program is nationally-based and is known as the most widely-taught suicide prevention training in the world, according to the Question Persuade Refer’s website.
Klint Hobbs, a psychologist and BYU Question Persuade Refer’s coordinator, said he is the only individual certified on the BYU campus and looks forward to training more students and faculty.
“What I really like about QPR is that it is a short training. You don’t have to go through hours and hours of it,” Hobbs said. “It’s like mental health first aid with a goal to get a person the help they need, to know what to say and do in a crisis situation.”
Hobbs said Question Persuade Refer certification takes about an hour, and 50 students and faculty have already signed up for two trainings later this year.
Psychology major Samantha Crawford is currently undergoing Question Persuade Refer Instructor training to help Hobbs teach the suicide prevention courses.
“We don’t want people to feel like the whole burden of someone’s life is on them. That’s not something that is healthy for someone to bear,” Crawford said. “But I think it’s best to be cautious and try to find ways to prevent or to be proactive on it.”
The fundamental principals of Question Persuade Refer training are best understood through its name.
If someone is not acting like themselves or appears to be in some kind of mental distress, ask them a genuine question, Crawford said.
“You’ll ask them more than just ‘how are you doing?’ because people don’t usually respond to that,” said Crawford. “But maybe ‘I’ve noticed that you have been acting differently and I’m worried about you. Can you tell me what’s been going on?'”
The suicide question can and should be asked when the case is severe, and Question Persuade Refer trains on how to phrase the words, according to Crawford.
“You want to make sure you are caring and non-judgmental, so you can be that person that someone can open up and talk to,” Crawford said.
Hobbs said it’s important to ask the question and take action, even if suicide turns out to not be the issue.
“It’s better to ask and be wrong than to not ask them at all,” he said.
Some individuals who are suicidal may try to reason that the situation is not a big deal and decide not to take action to prevent the issue from worsening, according to Crawford.
“Our job is to persuade them, to learn if anyone else, like friends or family, know about the situation and let them know about the counseling center and how the help is free,” Crawford said.
The point of persuasion, according to Crawford, is to help de-stigmatize the idea that help is not needed or too far out of reach. For individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts, Crawford said there’s always hope.
“I know what it feels like being in the dark,” Crawford said. “Please choose to stay. You don’t have to go through it alone.”
Crawford said the final effort is to refer the individual in crisis to the appropriate resources. Question Persuade Refer certification allows gatekeepers to see warning signs and offer support, but the ultimate step is to refer individuals to a psychologist and other professional forms of assistance.
Hobbs shared several of the resources available through BYU, such as the counselors available on a walk-in basis through Counseling and Psychological Services and the 24-hour University Police dispatch available after school hours to reach counselors.
There are no previous skills required to become Question Persuade Refer certified, according to Hobbs, and he aims to offer more training in the future.
“There are no prerequisites, and all students and faculty are welcome,” Hobbs said. “You don’t have to prep for it. We just want you to show up, and then we can give you what you need.”