Weber County Sheriff's Office offers QPR suicide prevention training

Tuesday , December 12, 2017 - 5:00 AM

SHERIFF TERRY THOMPSON, special to the Standard-Examiner

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an occasional column from Weber County law enforcement agencies addressing public safety issues.

It is an issue that frightens and confounds communities. Nearly everyone has been touched by it. The epidemic is suicide and it is not limited to teenagers.

Suicide spans our communities, from the very young to the very old. Likewise, it strains budgets and already limited law enforcement resources.

At any given time when looking at calls across Weber County, there are a few, or sometimes many, calls that involve a threat, a perception of a threat, or sadly, even completed suicides. The Weber County Sheriff’s Office decided that merely training employees to deal with these situations was not enough. We needed to become proactive in the community to help our fellow citizens identify and assist those who are in a crisis or are contemplating suicide.

Parents, teachers, co-workers, and friends often recognize signs that a person is in crisis but don’t know what to do to assist them. Often this lack of knowledge can lead someone to say the wrong thing, or sometimes say nothing.

With the guidance of Lt. Jason Talbot, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office initiated a pilot program known as QPR. QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) is a suicide prevention program. We can teach this program upon request at no cost to schools, churches and nonprofit groups without regard to jurisdiction. Additionally, this program is available to for-profit businesses for a nominal instructor fee.

QPR was developed by Dr. Paul Quinnett, the author of many books on suicide. QPR is a simple yet effective program that teaches people to recognize signs that a person is possibly feeling suicidal. Perhaps more important, QPR gives individuals the scientifically proven steps to reduce the risk and offer help.

Deputy Michael Aschinger, newly hired from an agency in another state, was already an accomplished QPR instructor. With 18 years of experience in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve, he initially became interested in suicide prevention while working with soldiers transitioning from wartime service to the civilian sector. His interest increased greatly when, sadly, he lost his own father, a law enforcement veteran, to suicide. Aschinger moved forward and achieved his bachelor’s degree in social science and his master’s in human services to increase his knowledge in patient care and suicide prevention.

Another member of the community, Laura Warburton, agreed to assist and became a QPR- certified instructor to share her story: the loss of a beautiful daughter to suicide. She has also financially assisted the department with materials through livehannahshope.org.

The Sheriff’s Office has also received materials and assistance from NUHOPE, the Northern Utah Hope Task Force, to help ensure this training does not strain budgets.

More than 900 gatekeepers have been trained by Aschinger and Warburton in the last year. After nearly every program, a few people stay and talk with the instructors about someone they know who is in pain. People have told our office about utilizing their QPR training to save lives.

As we continue to offer QPR to the community, we hope to increase the number of trained gatekeepers across to the point that no person in crisis is too far away from someone who knows how to get them help — someone who is not afraid to walk with them until they are better. With QPR, our office and staff are assisting the community with planting seeds of hope.

As we enjoy the wonders and meet the challenges of the holidays, please be cognizant of family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Let us share our love, support and guidance with those around us.

For information or arrangements on a possible presentation, e-mail kdurrant@co.weber.ut.us.

Terry L. Thompson is serving his second term as Weber County sheriff. Email: tthompson@co.weber.ut.us.

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