Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CAPS reaches out with suicide-prevention training

Suicide prevention is not just about crisis help lines any more.

Faculty and staff members play a crucial role in the prevention of suicide among college-age adults. That’s why the university’s student counseling center, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), has adopted a more detailed approach to prevention training.

On the Web

Counseling and Psychological Services — Student counseling center in the Michigan Union

MI-Talk — Web-based mental health screening service

Campus Mind Works — Web-based support for students diagnosed with a mental health disorder

Association of Religious Counselors — Advocates for religious, spiritual, ethical dimensions of university life

Community Provider Database — Searchable database of off-campus mental health providers

More about QPR training

That new approach — called QPR— is designed to show others “here’s how you can help” in the battle against suicide, still the nation’s No. 2 cause of death among young people, explains Todd Sevig, director of CAPS. Patterned after cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, QPR is a way that non-professionals can be trained to help in an emergency until professional help is available.

QPR — Question Persuade and Refer — is based on a two-hour training program designed to give others the tools they need to help a distressed student get professional help. The training provides direction on how to:

• Question someone about suicidal thoughts.

• Persuade the person to get help.

• Refer the person for assistance.

In the three years that U-M has used this nationally recognized program, some 1,500 people on campus have been trained, explains Christine Asidao, assistant director of CAPS and the one primarily responsible for outreach to the campus community. Literature about QPR and other CAPS programs was distributed to faculty members last week.

Asidio says the training has been offered to groups large and small. Faculty groups and academic units have been trained as have all resident assistants in university residence halls, athletic trainers, University Health Service staff and members of the Association of Religious Counselors.

John Greisberger, director of the International Center, says his advising staff has been through the QPR training and it has been invaluable.

“The training has helped us more quickly recognize concerns that are beyond our capacity,” he says. “And having a strong relationship with CAPS allows us to get our international students the help they need quickly.”

The training helps participants understand the difference between myths and facts; understand the warning signs of suicide; understand how to talk to someone about suicide; and understand how to get help for someone with suicidal thoughts.

Sevig notes that QPR was not developed to replace one-on-one counseling or to eliminate the need for crisis help lines. Instead, it’s meant as one more tool that can be used — and used by anyone willing to commit to the training.

“We want to increase prevention, education and awareness,” Sevig says. “We need to let students know we can all do something to help.”

Sevig and Asidao say they find students today are more comfortable asking for help. QPR helps the university community get out ahead of something like suicide, which can have tragic consequences.

Sevig says studies have found that there is a certain amount of protection provided by a university community: The suicide rate among college students is about half the rate of young people of the same age who are not in college.

“We’re trying to augment those protective factors with more widespread education and awareness.”