It doesn’t take a medical degree to do CPR, and that’s the point.
If only surgeons and doctors knew how to help the victim of a heart attack, many more people would die of heart attacks.
But because nearly one in five Americans are trained to see the signs of cardiac arrest, resuscitate the victim and call in trained professionals to take over care, everyone around them is safer. Same goes for basic first aid and the Heimlich maneuver.
But when it comes to mental health care, we don’t have the same attitude. Too many people feel unprepared to step into someone else’s psychotic breakdown or depression or capable of administering life-saving measures that don’t involve chest compressions. And even if they’re willing, they may worry they won’t have the right words.
But just like in a heart attack, providing aid doesn’t mean solving the problem. It means administering the necessary help until the victim can get complete treatment from a professional.
That’s the idea behind QPR training, which the Umatilla County Health Department and Good Shepherd Medical Center hosted in February. If more people take on the role of “gatekeepers,” trained to recognize and respond to those suffering a mental health crisis or having suicidal thoughts, we will create a network of support that will decrease the number of suicides.
It’s a three-step process of questioning, persuading and referring.
The first step is to be frank and direct, especially about suicide. Amanda Wolsburn, the prevention education specialist for Umatilla County Health, explained during the training that you can’t plant the idea of suicide in someone’s mind by talking about it. Either they are or they aren’t considering it, and by bringing it to the open you are bringing it out from the dark.
The signs might not be obvious, but if someone exhibits sudden shifts in demeanor or mood, talks about what life would be like if they were gone or shows an interest in getting rid of personal belongings, it’s a good time to broach the subject.
The next step is to persuade, to explain that help is available and that their life is important to you and others. It’s important to speak in positive terms, and not demean the person for considering suicide.
The last step is refer, knowing where to get the person the help they need. Below are some numbers to call for immediate help.
•National Suicide Prevention Lifelin: 1-800-273-8255
•Good Shepherd Medical Center: 541-667-3400
•Umatilla County Crisis Line: 541-240-8030
•Spanish Language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-888-628-9454
•SafeOregon reporting line: 844-472-3367 or firstname.lastname@example.org
•Crisis Text Line: 741741
•Lines for Life: linesforlife.org
•OregonYouthLine.org: 1-877-968-8491 or text “teen2teen” to 839863
•The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ youth): 1-866-4-U-TREVOR
•Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266
•Military Helpline: 888-457-4838 or text MIL1 to 839863
•Alcohol and Drug Helpline: 800-923-4357 or text RecoveryNow to 839863
For more information on upcoming trainings on suicide prevention, contact Walsborn at 541-278-5432.