QPR suicide prevention training can save lives

From left Gloria Battishall Senior Administration Officer Hunter Primary Care and Scott White. Pic for Let's Talk Newcastle series. 5th September 2018. Picture by Simone De Peak
From left Gloria Battishall Senior Administration Officer Hunter Primary Care and Scott White. Pic for Let's Talk Newcastle series. 5th September 2018. Picture by Simone De Peak

ADMINISTRATION officer Gloria Battishall was working for a post-suicide attempt support service when she took a call from a deeply distressed young woman.

“She was talking about suicide, and at that moment, I didn’t have any of the support coordinators in the office – they were up on another level in a meeting,” Miss Battishall, of Hunter Primary Care, said.

“I am ex-Army as well, so I had a bit of suicide training awareness through the Defence Force. I was trying to do all the right things, and ask the hows and the whys. ‘Is there anything I can do? Is there anyone around you who can help?’

“I was really trying hard to stop her from killing herself.”

Miss Battishall said she had to remain calm.

There was a life in danger. The stakes were too high for her to get emotional.

“I must have been successful, because eventually she waited while I went and got one of the care co-ordinators to talk to her,” Miss Battishall said.

“It was a good outcome, thank heavens, but it was a stressful situation. It was scary.”

Miss Battishall was working for The Way Back – a service that supports people who have tried to take their own lives after they are discharged from hospital.

“We were working with some very fragile people in the community,” she said.

“The suicide attempts were ranging from teenagers to people who were 92 years old. There is no discrimination on age, sex, or economic factors.”

Her experience had motivated her to seek further suicide prevention training.

She completed an online module called QPR – Question, Persuade, Refer.

“I think it should be mandatory,” she said. “It is a taboo subject for a lot of people. But I have the ability now to recognise some of the precursors to someone who may be thinking about it.”

Communications manager Scott White said it had taken a former colleague reaching out and asking him questions about his mental health for him realise his untreated anxiety was driving his depression.

As someone who had attempted suicide, it was “incredibly important” for people to check in on each other. To have those conversations.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to kill myself, it was that I saw it as the only solution,” he said.

“When you ask people why they might be reticent to ask someone, RU OK? They will often say, ‘What if they say they aren’t OK?’

“If someone is thinking about suicide, you can’t put it in their head.

“Don’t be scared to ask the question, ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’ It’s a tough question, but you can ask it.

“You are not going to do any harm.”

Mr White said people did not think twice about learning CPR.

“The evidence shows that communities that have lots of people trained in CPR have reduced rates of cardiac deaths, because there are so many people who can act as first responders,” he said.

“Evidence is now building that communities that have people trained in QPR have reduced rates of suicide.”

The RU OK? Day Conversation Convoy is in Newcastle’s Civic Park between 8.30 and 10am on Friday, September 7.

Comedian Tanya Hennessey and musician Casey Donovan will be there as ambassadors to promote RU OK? Day on September 13.

Those who attend will receive a free QPR licence to complete the online suicide prevention training.