Eric Galatas | Colorado News Connection
Colorado has the sixth-highest suicide rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When someone experiences a medical emergency, bystanders trained to perform CPR know how to react, but it is not always the case during a mental health emergency.
Jennifer Morris, licensed therapist and trainer for AllHealth Network, a community mental health center offering free QPR suicide prevention training in the southern Denver metro area and Castle Rock, said they hope to make more people aware of ways to help.
“People are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, so often they tend to do nothing,” Morris explained. “But if more people had training and just very basic questions to ask, who to refer people to, and how to provide some basic support, I think we would come a long way.”
QPR training helps people recognize warning signs of a suicide crisis, which can include changes in routine behavior or sleep patterns, or talking about being a burden on others or wanting to die. QPR stands for questioning, persuading, and referring people to resources, and Morris said it starts by engaging someone in a conversation. Ask how they are doing, let them know you care about them, and ask if they need help.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among Colorado kids ages 10 to 14.
Axis Health System recently held a Youth Mental Health First Aid training for all 40 Ouray School District staff members, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and janitors.
Paul Reich, community relations liaison for Axis, said staff may notice warning signs outside the classroom, and can intervene even if they do not have a close relationship with the student.
“If I know the coach does, and he’s had the same training I’ve had, it’s a great opportunity for me to go to that coach and say ‘Hey have you noticed student x might be struggling?’ And ‘You seem like you have a good relationship with them. Would you feel comfortable talking to that young person?'” Reich outlined.
Colorado’s 18 community mental health centers, which treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay, can be found at cbhc.org. Morris added people can also get help remotely by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, and many of the centers offer telehealth.
“It provides more anonymity in a small town where people might not run into their neighbor or a co-worker waiting in an office lobby, or someone might see their car,” Morris noted.