Johnson County group helps people spot warning signs of suicide


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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind.– A non-profit group based in Greenwood is offering several training sessions focused on spotting the possible warning signs of suicide and intervening if necessary.

Upstream Prevention is hosting several training sessions over the next few weeks. Those sessions will provide QPR Gatekeeper training, which stands for Question, Persuade and Refer. The goal is to show people how to recognize when someone is in a mental health crisis, ask the right questions, and persuade and refer the individual to get help.

“The first step is to be aware of them,” said Upstream Prevention’s Executive Director, Kathleen Ratcliff. “But then you have to be able to take action and get support.”

The QPR training sessions are intended to make attendees better observers of the behavior and communication of those around them. Participants can learn to spot changes in the way friends or co-workers act or communicate.

“All of a sudden drinking to excess when they never drank before,” Ratcliff said. “Are they putting some of their life affairs in order? Are they making comments in terms of I don’t want to be here anymore, things would be better without me?”

The training also teaches how to ask difficult questions that go beyond the typical “how are you.”

“You seem to be down, you seem to be upset or depressed,” Ratcliff said. “Sometimes people who are in this place feel like killing themselves, is that something that you’re thinking about?”

The program comes as mental health officials are observing the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people around the nation. In late June, a CDC survey found 11% of Americans had considered suicide. This past Spring, the Indiana Youth Survey found 17% of Indiana high school seniors had considered suicide.

“Calls to either 211, or the Be Well Indiana or just outright to the suicide prevention lifeline and to the crisis text line, those have increased pretty drastically since March,” Ratcliff said.

While isolation and social distancing during the pandemic could make it more difficult to keep an eye on friends and co-workers, Ratcliff suggests using the same virtual tools many of us have been using to work over the last six months.

“Sending a short text message that says, ‘hey, I haven’t talked to you in a while, we used to talk every day,’” Ratcliff said. “Do you want to have a Zoom call or a FaceTime or just chat via text?”

She also suggests watching a person’s social media posts for warning signs.

At the same time, Upstream Prevention is conducing an online survey for Johnson County residents to see how well informed they are on issues related to suicide and overall mental health. The results will help shape the organizations education and public awareness campaigns for the next couple years.

“If it comes out that people don’t recognize some of the warning signs or don’t realize some of the triggers for some of these things, that’s an are of education we can focus on for the next year,” Ratcliff said.

If you or anyone you know is struggling or experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. That number is (800) 273-8255.

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