Spot suicide warning signs with new training by Parkview

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates are rising in nearly every state. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide.

Indiana is not immune to this trend.

In fact, Indiana has the second highest suicide rate in the country among people ages 15-34. The CDC indicates that Indiana’s suicide rate has increased nearly 32 percent since 1999, while the national average rose to about 25 percent.

On average, one person dies by suicide every nine hours in the state.

At a recent board meeting of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan called suicide one of the three most common causes of “deaths of despair,” which also include drug and alcohol abuse and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

Many of these deaths are related to the treatable mental health problems of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In response to the growing mental health needs of the region, Parkview Health is stepping up to help individuals and families who may be struggling. Parkview LaGrange Hospital has created a Suicide Prevention Task Force that includes representatives from Parkview Behavioral Health, as well as local physicians and caregivers.

“There are many myths associated with suicide that need to be dispelled,” says Rhonda Sharp, MD, associate chief medical officer at Parkview Health who serves as the physician champion for the task force.

“We need to bring this topic out of the shadows and shine a bright light on it. We need to let people know that suicide is preventable. Talking about suicide won’t cause it. And, most importantly, suicide prevention is everybody’s business—anyone can help prevent the tragedy.”

Along with the support of Parkview Behavioral Health and a grant from The Lutheran Foundation, the task force implemented a suicide prevention program called QPR – Question, Persuade, Refer. The techniques of QPR are used to recognize the signs of someone at risk of suicide and how to help them to the care they need.

The training is free and open to adults age 18 and older.

Although it is research-based and outcome driven, the program is easily taught and used by any adult. QPR doesn’t require an advanced education or a degree in counseling or psychiatry. It isn’t a form of counseling or treatment, but rather a “focused conversation” that provides an offer of hope.

The task force has wasted no time getting the program in front of the community. Police departments have undergone QPR training, school districts, chamber of commerce members, businesses, area churches and more.

In the program’s first year, 300 people in LaGrange County alone received training.

“Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone to help,” says Connie Kerrigan, director of community outreach, Parkview Behavioral Health.

“When it comes to mental health, early intervention can save a life. And each year thousands of Americans, like you, are saying ‘yes’ to saving the life of a friend, colleague, sibling or neighbor.”

Visit to register for an upcoming QPR training session.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, experienced specialists from Parkview Behavioral Health are available 24 hours a day by calling the HelpLine at 800-284-8439.

At The Lutheran Foundation’s, visitors can search for mental health providers throughout the state, find useful information, and seek help 24/7.

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