QPR: Ask a Question, Save a Life

If veteran suicides have increased, shouldn’t the number of suicides reported through the Crisis Hotline also be on the rise? Yet that does not appear to be the case. The Crisis Hotline is an effective referral tool but only if Veterans utilize the service. The key to improving these numbers is education. Do you know the signs and do you know how to speak with someone about suicide? Do you know what the next step would be?

This spring, Hope For The Warriors staff members, interns, volunteers, and supporters took the pledge to #ChangeMentalHealth by learning the five signs. This initiative, through Give an Hour, taught us the five signs to identify someone with a mental health crisis. The signs are withdrawal, agitation, hopelessness, decline in personal care, and change in personality. 

In April, Hope For The Warriors took another step in our mental health education. During our annual Staff Development Conference, each staff member was trained in QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer. Regardless of our role within the organization, Hope For The Warriors staff needs to be trained, educated, and prepared to help with service members, veterans, and military family members who might be at risk for suicide.
What is QPR?
QPR is not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment.
It is intended to offer hope through positive action.
When you apply QPR, you plant the seeds of HOPE. HOPE helps prevent suicide.
Overview of QPR Training
During the QPR training, we learned myths and facts about suicide. We learned about the most common verbal and behavioral clues in someone that is considering suicide. Most importantly we learned what to say and do if we are speaking with someone exhibiting these signs. The training ended with role playing and small group discussion.
As a nonprofit, each one of our staff members needs to use this information to support our veteran population. 
This blog does not replace true QPR training but is the start of an education process.
Depending on your comfort level and your relationship with the person, you can ask a direct or indirect question.
Indirect question examples:
  • “Have you been unhappy lately?”
  • “Have you been so unhappy that you’ve thought about ending your life?”
  • “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”

Direct question example:
  • “You know, when people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes wish they were dead. I’m wondering if you are feeling that way too?”
  • “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

Do NOT ask: “You’re not suicidal, are you?” 
That makes the person less likely to open up and talk to you. The question leads to the answer you want to hear, which might not be the truth.
How do you persuade someone to stay alive?

  • Listen to the problem and give your full attention
  • Remember, suicide is not the problem, only the solution to a perceived insoluble problem
  • Don’t rush to judgment
  • Offer HOPE in any form

Your willingness to listen and to help can give HOPE
  • The best referral involves taking the person directly to someone that can help.
  • If that is not possible, get a commitment from them to accept help, and make arrangements.
  • If that is not possible, give referral information and get a good faith commitment not to attempt suicide.
Veterans Crisis Line: 800.273.8255 Press 1
The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7.

Training was provided by Vicki Lane, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Regional Clinical Social Worker with Hope For The Warriors. Vicki earned her certification in QPR through the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC). SPRC is supported by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).