How to Save a Life

Recently, I took advantage of a QPR training session offered by individuals working in the Conant House on campus. This training was available to all Colgate students and faculty. QPR training aims to help everyday people, rather than trained professionals, to respond to those who find themselves in a mental health crisis. The acronym stands for the three phases of aiding those around you who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide: Question, Persuade and Refer. The training serves to teach an individual how to approach each of these phases, and shows that reaching out to those who are struggling never does more bad than good, even though many people believe it may. This was definitely the most important lesson I took from the training, and I feel it is an important lesson for everyone at Colgate to understand.

There seems to be this common misconception that asking a struggling individual about suicide will only further their drive to commit it. This was something I believed going into the training; I’ve always been afraid to approach my depressed friends about their intentions because I was afraid talking about it would send them over the edge. What Colgate’s QPR training made me realize, however, was that it was actually my fear of the answer that kept me from asking the question, rather than a fear of what they would do afterwards. During this training, it was explained to me that inquiring about the other person’s mental state actually made them feel more cared for, rather than pushing them to act on their negative thoughts. In hindsight, this makes sense; feeling cared for is my reaction to others approaching me about my depressive moods. We learned that when you’re really worried about someone, it is always better to be direct rather than to skirt around the question, which is another point I had doubts about before the session.

After learning how to approach the question of suicide, and learning that it is always a valid question to ask, we were taught how to encourage individuals to get help. We were given a multitude of on- and off-campus resources to which we could direct friends in need. It gives me hope to know that Colgate is advocating for suicide awareness, and offering opportunities such as QPR training to those willing to learn.

I felt as though this was an important topic to address because of how few people actually came to a meeting that was open to the entire Colgate community. As somebody who has lost a very close friend to suicide, I can attest to the fact that all you want to do once the tragedy happens is go back, recognize the signs and ask your friend if things are okay; you want nothing more than to go back and ask “the suicide question.” This desire can never be realized, however, because the time you had to ask the question has passed; you have lost your chance to save the life of someone you love. As I make new relationships at Colgate, I can tell that those around me have stories I have not even begun to understand, and I have no doubt that some of those stories contain dark chapters. It is endlessly important that everyone knows how to come to a friend’s or even stranger’s aid if they seem to be falling through the cracks, and I encourage you all to do some research on QPR and the good it could do for those in need.