Question, persuade, refer

The numbers available at the QPR Institute website are staggering. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. The rates are highest among Americans 65 and older. Males are four times more likely to die by suicide, but three times as many women attempt to take their lives.

It’s not surprising that a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, located in Atlanta, and reported in 2003, showed that suicide rates had significantly increased four years following disasters. In the case of flooding, rates were 13.8 percent higher.

And it’s entirely preventable.

Two years following the flood, many in Minot are still suffering from extreme hopelessness.

Mark Frueh, of Minot, is a member of the Souris Valley Long-Term Flood Recovery committee which is in the process of certifying a team of QPR-certified first responders for suicide prevention. The idea is to train as many people in suicide awareness as possible. Their mission: to question, persuade and refer with an intention of preventing suicide.

Frueh, from First Presbyterian Church in Minot, has worked with a team of people to set up the program to certify 200 members of the community at no cost.

With funds donated from First Presbyterian’s flood fund, a team of four has been certified to become QPR trainers. The trainers are Steve Oster, the Rev. Andy Busch, Judy Krause and Alan Widmayer, all of Minot.

Contrary to the belief of some, asking if a vulnerable person is considering suicide doesn’t suggest it. Instead, it lowers anxiety, opens up communication and lowers risk of an impulsive act.

The QPR class trains people to be on the lookout for signals that someone might be struggling and tries to open those lines of communication simply by asking if the person is considering suicide.

The intention is not to counsel but to listen and to then get the struggling person to professional help.

Going through the training allows a responder to react instinctively, with an organized response to the problem.

“You put those pieces together and it’s a tight safety net,” said Busch, a pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Minot. He held a certified trainer class at Our Savior Church on June 24.

“Once you ask the question, they come right out with it and you’re able to tighten the safety net,” Busch said. “That alone can save a life.”

If a vulnerable person acknowledges feelings of despair, the responder is taught to listen non-judgmentally and offer hope.

The last step is to refer the individual to a person or place that can assist them, even making the arrangements if necessary.

The Souris Valley Long Term Recovery committee has focused on emotional and spiritual care following the flood. The QPR first responder training is another step to help aid the community’s healing process.

Immediately following the flood, Project Renew was established to help flood survivors cope. Funded by FEMA, Project Renew volunteers went door to door through flooded neighborhoods and tried to provide each homeowner with references and resources.

Last year, Frueh, who leads the spiritual and emotional care aspect for the long-term care recovery committee, worked with individuals and organizations including the Minot Area Community Foundation to hold block parties for flooded neighborhoods.

“It is so important to rebuild the sense of community back into our neighborhoods,” Frueh said.

“Our long-term goal is to continue to help grow a healthier and stronger community,” he added.

Krause said, “The first year after the flood, about 50,000 people came to community events that assisted in healing.”

She added that two years after the FEMA level-5 disaster, people are still struggling. Many homeowners are not back in their houses, and some of those who are don’t feel “at home” just yet.