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Senior Center hosts suicide prevention training

Trainees gather for a photo in front of the Senior Center after going through QPR training. Photos submitted.

Submitted by Meg Dickens

On Friday, September 10, the Johnson County Senior Center was closed for a training session through the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) in honor of Suicide Prevention Month and Suicide Prevention Day. Ballad Health Trauma Prevention Specialist Heatherly Sifford led the training and offered state and national statistics. The technique revolves around QPR, which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer.

Suicide is considered a taboo subject. Multiple experts have explained that the stigma around the subject makes reaching out for help more difficult for those fighting it. Sifford agreed, stating that “stigma is a huge risk factor because we’ve made it a huge risk.”

Many people may not realize how much suicide affects people in the Johnson County community. During the training session, Sifford asked for a show of hands from participants that knew someone who lost their life to suicide, and nearly every hand in the room shot up.

QPR’s purpose is to provide hope, not be a form of counseling. As Sifford explained, “most people who are suicidal don’t want to die. They just want the pain to stop.” By reaching out and showing these people that you care, persuading them to get help, and referring them to a source for help, you could save a life. Many documented survivors report looking for a sign not to go through with the act.

“Our words are very powerful,” Sifford said while sharing a story. “Sometimes we use them for good, and sometimes we use them for bad. You can make a world of difference by offering a hand of hope.”

Part of the reason for this training was that Johnson County Senior Center volunteers noticed warning signs in community members. Director Kathy Motsinger shared the story of how one Phone Buddy saw the signs and reported them. After visiting the person in question, the community member claims that the Senior Center saved her life. By offering this training, volunteers, staff, and other trainees learned about risk factors, signs, and the proper way to broach the subject.

According to TSPN statistics, the highest suicide rates occur in the 55-59 age group, and the second-highest group is 85 plus. Suicide is reportedly the tenth leading cause of death in the nation but jumps to higher numbers in particular age groups. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact a crisis line.

Reach the TN Crisis Line at 855-274-7471, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text the Crisis Text Line “TN” to 741741.

Ballad Health Trauma Prevention Specialist Heatherly Sifford offers QPR training at the Johnson County Senior Center during Suicide Prevention Month and Suicide Prevention Day. Photo submitted