The pandemic, and its accompanying economic hardship and mental stress, is bringing attention to mental health and suicide prevention.

Stephanie Delmore, the sexual abuse prevention and response victim assistant coordinator and employee support coordinator for parishes and schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, has facilitated 20 QPR sessions since February. She has trained archdiocesan central office staff, school and parish staff, and parishioners.

“QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer — the three simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. 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,” Delmore said. “As a QPR-trained Gatekeeper, you will learn to: recognize the warning signs of suicide, know how to offer hope, know how to get help and save a life. It only takes one hour.”

According to Delmore, through community education efforts and outreach to individuals in crisis, “we work toward the goal of preventing suicide, and everyone can help save lives and create healthy and strong individuals, families and communities.” To help prepare others to help those contemplating suicide, she also hosted a QPR suicide prevention program to 18 schools last year and trained their entire staff.

“I’m hosting a QPR session this month for any central office, school or parish staff. I sent resources for suicide prevention to all principals and school counselors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee,” she said. “I know that central office HR is going to be sharing some awareness info in the weekly central office staff newsletter this month. I also shared resources with all ministry leaders at the central office with the hope that they pass them on at the parish level! I trained the new group of Brew City Missionaries a couple of weeks ago.”

Micah Pfundstein, the director of Brew City Missionaries, said all nine missionaries participated in the training. He said it had been on his radar for a few years, and it was helpful to have someone available in-house for the archdiocese who is equipped to do QPR training.

“Our missionaries often encounter and walk with students who experience different mental health challenges. Especially with mental health challenges increasing in recent years,” Pfundstein said. “It’s vitally important for our missionaries to feel equipped in how to engage and respond when they notice something or find themselves in a situation where someone needs help. The QPR training is very clear and gives concrete instruction on how to engage and respond while also dispelling fears or common misconceptions that people have. Knowing what you can do empowers you to act and to know when help beyond yourself is needed.”

There is an average of 123 suicides every day, making it the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States. It’s the second leading cause for ages 10-34 and the third leading cause for ages 15-24. To create awareness and strengthen the fight against suicide, the entire month of September is Suicide Prevention Month.

Studies by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrate suicide rates increased 33 percent between 1999 and 2019, slightly declining in 2019. In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt and 1.4 million attempted suicide.

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