March 7, 2017

Suicide prevention education and training critical to a healthy campus

Highly subscribed SU Wellness Centre programs equip students, faculty and staff to help each other
Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) is one of the key suicide prevention programs offered by SU Wellness Centre.

Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) is one of the key suicide prevention programs offered.

The university years can be some of the most exciting times in a young person’s life, but they can also be some of the most stressful. In a campus-wide National College Health Assessment (NCHA) student survey completed at the University of Calgary in 2016, 48.8 per cent of respondents reported experiencing more than average stress, and 12 per cent of students reported that they had seriously considered suicide. It’s an issue that is of paramount importance to the university community.

Through two highly subscribed suicide intervention programs offered through the SU Wellness Centre, education and awareness are important tools to help intervene early and help those in need of support.

“A training model that better equips the campus community to support their peers is a highly effective method of increasing capacity to prevent the risk of suicide and to build a stronger campus community,” says Debbie Bruckner, senior director, student wellness, access and support.

Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) is a certified suicide intervention program that provides community education and builds awareness of suicide. This gatekeeper training teaches students, faculty, and staff how to recognize and support someone who may be having thoughts of suicide. QPR is a tool that can be used by anyone and provides direction about how to question a person about suicidal thoughts, how to persuade them to get help, and how to refer the person to appropriate professional resources. QPR was launched in the summer of 2016 and has been offered 10 times, with 223 people participating.

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is an intensive, interactive and practice-dominated course designed to help caregivers recognize and review risk, and intervene to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. It is by far the most widely used, acclaimed and researched suicide intervention training workshop in the world. Two certified trainers offer this program three times each year at the University of Calgary.

Since 2013, the SU Wellness Centre has offered 10 ASIST training sessions to 242 participants. Preliminary evaluation data from ASIST showed a statistically significant improvement in participants being comfortable asking someone who shows signs of suicide if they are considering suicide, feeling prepared to intervene, and being aware of resources available to help people with thoughts of suicide.

“These programs are direct supports to the Campus Mental Health Strategy, particularly the focus areas of early identification and response. When we are able to help our friends and colleagues better and faster, we can actually truly make a difference in our community,” says Bruckner.

“The Mental Health Task Force created a vision and framework to optimize mental health at the University of Calgary, to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and where we realize our potential. I’m proud of what we have done.”

The next scheduled QPR training session is March 8 from 5-6:30 p.m. The next on-campus ASIST session is scheduled for May 1-2, 2017.

Join us for a celebratory day of events to promote mental health and wellness in our university family on March 7. 

The University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential. If you think you need help, please visit resources here. If you think someone you know needs help, find more information here.