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Nov. 20 event is first that will teach public Question, Persuade, Refer techniques

PMG FILE PHOTO - For the first time, the WLWV School District is providing suicide prevention training to the general community. Social workers and counselors from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District will host the district's first public QPR training on Nov. 20.

QPR, which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer, is a suicide prevention tactic that provides the public with tools to aid someone considering suicide.

Three licensed clinical social workers and one school counselor aim to offer three or four community trainings this school year, with at least one training offered in Spanish.

"You learn how to question someone about whether or not they're feeling suicidal, and you learn how to persuade them to get help, and then you actually do the next level up, to refer them to someone to be able to get help," said Art Tech counselor and QPR training leader Cheryl Wilson.

"We just want to equip people with the skills ... because this is a topic that a lot of people don't like to talk about. A lot of people don't feel equipped to talk about suicide," said Arts and Technology High School Principal Saskia Dresler.

Six years ago, the school district convened a suicide prevention task force to look at what resources the district offered and what programs and services could be added. Last year, the district reconvened that task force.

"It's a process that our district does pretty frequently, looking at things that we have in place, going back and looking again to see how we can improve," Wilson said.

"We'd built some skills, we'd built some capacity, but the issue as a whole and in the world hasn't decreased at all, and so we wanted to continue to move forward with building capacity

and understand this," Dresler said.

The task force looks at four categories for mental health and wellness: wellness promotion, which includes topics like exercise and community connections; education, which includes wellness curriculum and specific suicide prevention programs; intervention, which includes QPR, risk assessment and clear procedures for staff; and postvention, which comes into play for an individual following a mental health crisis or for a community after someone dies by suicide.

The reconvened task force "identified and embedded multiple different suicide prevention programs and packages and trainings," Wilson said.

QPR was selected "because it is something that is available to everyone, and accessible to everyone, and it parallels itself with the concept of CPR," Wilson said.

The district started offering QPR trainings in early 2019, in the second semester of the last school year. After a handful of trainings for staff, the district is expanding to offer trainings for any school personnel once a month during early release Wednesdays. Wilson said the ideal goal is to have every staff member trained in QPR.

The training later this month is the first that the district has opened to the public.

"We want to be a part of our community, and so we are creating opportunities," she said.

Wilson is one of four people in the district who have been instructed as QPR trainers. The trainings also are led by Sarah Hiatt, the district's student support and outreach specialist in primary schools; Brittany Buchholz, who fills the same role in middle schools and high

schools; and Krystal Toderick, a counselor at West Linn High School.

The school district also is working alongside Clackamas County's Coalition for Suicide Prevention. The coalition meets monthly and all members of the public are welcome to join.

Nationally, an average of 129 people die by suicide each day. In Oregon, the suicide rate is higher than the national

average and has been for decades.

Clackamas County has its own 24/7 mental health crisis line at 503-655-8585, as well as an urgent mental health walk-in clinic open daytime Monday through Saturday at 11211 S.E. 82nd Ave., Suite O, Happy Valley. YouthLine offers support through calls, texts, or online chats. Dial 877-968-8491 or text teen2teen to 839863. The Trevor Project Suicide Prevention

Lifeline is for LGBTQ youth

and can be reached at 1-866-488-7386.

The QPR training will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 20 in the community room at Arts and Technology High School in Wilsonville. Participants can sign up online in advance.

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