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How to persuade someone who is suicidal to stay and get help

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — This week we are focusing on suicide prevention through the method of QPR, Question, Persuade, Refer. On Monday, we told you about the Q in QPR – Question. Ask someone if they are considering harming themselves.

Then you can move on to Persuade.

You are not just persuading someone to stay, you are truly listening to them to help them.

“We listen to the person, we listen to their story. We persuade them to seek help by instilling hope in them,” said Summit County health educator Alyssa Mitchell. “Before you persuade, listen to what they have to say.”

The day that Heidi Peterson got the QPR training, she had a gut feeling about a family member and called them and asked them if they were thinking of ending their life. After the question, she listened.

“Persuading was part of that conversation,” she said, adding that it is all about empathy, and asking open-ended questions about their pain.

Then you can let them know there is hope and help.

Peterson is a program manager with the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Besides helping her own family member, she realized an acquaintance was exhibiting signs of depression, and reached out through Facebook messenger to ask, persuade, and refer.

Summit County Health Dietician SaRene Brooks’ son realized a friend was suicidal, after a text message. He was too far away to get to him quickly, so the persuasion part of the experience for him was convincing his friend to drive to his fiance’s house where he would be immediately safe.

“My son knew he would be ok and someone else would get him the help he needed,” she said.

“Making statements like I care about you, I want you to live, tell me more, how can I help you, versus a laundry list of what they have,” said Mitchell.

After persuading someone to get help and hope again, it is time to refer them to services. Wednesday in Part Three of our series on QPR, we talk more about the Refer part of the training.

But for now, if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call 800-273-TALK or download the Safe-U-T app for immediate help.