SUNY Potsdam community gets QPR training to prevent suicides


Because suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst college students, SUNY Potsdam is taking a proactive approach to teach faculty, staff and students how to identify the warning signs of a potential suicide crisis and the methods that can be used to prevent it.

Three members of SUNY Potsdam’s College Counseling Center are teaching the “Question, Persuade, Refer” (QPR) Method to various groups on campus. QPR is a comprehensive, three-step prevention strategy that provides hope and connection to suicidal individuals and directs the individual to appropriate psychological services utilizing the existing skills that all individuals inherently possess.

“Out of concern for our students, we felt an appropriate and in-depth outreach should be done on a proactive level,” said Jeff Lazovik, counseling center director.

In a matter of less than two hours, Lazovik or clinicians Josh Brown and Gena Nelson can provide a step-by-step format to allow gatekeepers, who are in connection with potentially suicidal individuals, a framework for how to ask a person if they are suicidal, persuade them to get help and how and where to refer the individual. The training also identifies symptoms of depression and suicide warning signs and provides clarification of misconceptions about suicide.

SUNY Potsdam’s Leadership Council, Wellness Advocates and Wellness Advocate trainees have already undergone the training. Directors and assistant directors of the Student Affairs Division and the coaching staffs for SUNY Potsdam athletic teams are next in line for the training, followed by University Police and other administrators.

Lazovik noted it is his hope that eventually all campus constituents are trained as gatekeepers.

Adults ages 25 to 44 compose the greatest number of completed suicides, but approximately 1,100 college students complete suicide each year.

“There are multitudes of factors that play a part in suicides,” said Lazovik. “These can include occupational, social, emotional and biochemical facets of a person’s experience. Depression is the single most important contributing psychological issue associated with people that both consider suicide and take actions against their own life.”

Based on the 2007 Gallagher National Survey of College Counseling Centers, 80 schools in the size range of 2,500 to 7,500 students reported that a total of 18 students had committed suicide in the past year. SUNY Potsdam has approximately 4,350 students and has felt the loss of a completed suicide twice in the last two years.

The staff of the SUNY Potsdam College Counseling Center would be glad to schedule QPR trainings or respond to any questions about trainings. The maximum size of a QPR training group is from 25 to 30 individuals. SUNY Potsdam groups will be given priority. For additional information, please call (315) 267-2330.