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Suicide prevention efforts in county include task force, public support trainings

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Weston Perkins-Clark joined Columbia Health Services in January. In rural communities, like Columbia County and where Perkins-Clark grew up in Arkansas, 'any type of healthcare is absolutely necessary, especially when it comes to mental health and suicide awareness,' he said. As the leader of the Suicide Prevention Task Force and the suicide prevention coordinator for Columbia Health Services, Weston Perkins-Clark is working to gather community members to share their ideas on what resources are needed in the county.

Perkins-Clark held the first of what will be monthly QPR trainings earlier this month. QPR, which stands for "Question, Persuade, Refer," is a suicide-prevention tactic.

In QPR trainings, Perkins-Clark discusses the warning signs that someone may be considering suicide, and the questions that people can ask when they believe someone is at risk. With QPR, people try to persuade the person at risk to not harm themselves, reassure them that they are not alone, and refer them to resources.

"The key is to know that there are always signs there, it's just being prepared for them," he said. "That's what that training and others like it are all about: making sure that we as regular, everyday people have the power to recognize when someone is in need of help and can step in and help them. We don't need a list of certifications behind our name to be able to help somebody."

The first QPR training was held in St. Helens, with another training planned for Clatskanie in August. "The plan with that is to do one a month, minimum, and rotate throughout the county," Perkins-Clark explained. Community groups and businesses can also request QPR trainings.

The trainings last 60 to 90 minutes, but can run longer and more in-depth when requested.

Perkins-Clark joined Columbia Health Services in January, moving to Columbia County from North Dakota, where he was working on his master's degree in public health.

As the leader of the task force, Perkins-Clark said he wants to defer to the long-

time residents who know the community best. The task force "is an open forum, basically for people to come and talk about what the community needs... and to make a difference in any way that they feel they can," he explained.

Participants include people who work in education, healthcare or other social services, as well as community members who come simply because they care about the issue.

One of the major themes that has come up in task force meetings is the need for more support for families affected by suicide.

"What I expected to just be a quick conversation ended up taking over the entire meeting and highlighting this extreme need for family supports that I was not aware of, because no one had talked about it in the time that I had been here," Perkins-Clark said.

Those interested in participating in the task force or receiving QPR training can contact Perkins-Clark at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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