Tooele City’s Communities that Care will launch an ongoing suicide prevention training program this summer to address the rising number of youth who say they have considered suicide, officials announced on Wednesday.
Communities that Care is a 10-year-old city initiative that uses data to identify local trends that put area youth at risk and then devises programs to address those risk factors, said Heidi Peterson, Communities that Care director.
For the past several years, the program has focused on three risk factors: substance abuse, family conflict and low commitment to school.
While conducting a new data review for a presentation on the program’s successes over the last 10 years, Peterson said that Communities that Care identified a fourth, unaddressed risk factor that is on the rise among area youth — unaddressed depressive symptoms and behaviors, including suicide ideation.
Data from Mountain West Medical Center indicates that the number of youth — ages 11–18 who were admitted to the hospital for suicide attempts, gestures, or ideation — has doubled since 2009, Peterson said. Additionally, she said, 14 percent of local teens indicated that they were considering suicide on the county’s most recent Sharp survey.
To help set teens suffering from depressive symptoms on a path toward recovery, Peterson announced Wednesday night that Communities that Care would add a regularly-scheduled suicide prevention workshop to its list of ongoing, preventative programming.
The training program, titled QPR, which stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, is intended to train local residents in research-backed methods for responding to potentially fatal mental health crises in much the same way CPR equips laymen to address medical emergencies, Peterson said.
Participants in the program will learn to ask direct questions and to listen intently in an effort to erase the taboo surrounding mental illness and suicide. The ultimate goal of these interventions, Peterson said, is to guide struggling teens toward professional care.
“We want to instill hope and give people tools,” she said. “We want the people here to feel empowered.”
QPR training will be free and open to the public. Sessions will be held quarterly, or more frequently, as necessary.
Previous success with similar intervention programs, especially with the Communities that Care anti-substance abuse initiatives, illustrate the potential of preventative training programs such as QPR, Peterson said.
According to her, alcohol use, for example, dropped more than 10 percent between 2002–2005, the year after Tooele City introduced Communities that Care. Likewise, cigarette use dropped more than 12 percent during the same time period. Since 2005, alcohol use has continued to drop another 10 percent, and cigarette use is down an additional 7 percent.
Communities that Care addresses substance abuse through Lion’s Quest, a student training program that teaches local sixth-graders about the consequences of substance abuse, Peterson said.
“The programming we have in place has made great strides against substance abuse,” she said. “We hope to see the same effect on suicide.”
The inaugural QPR training will take place Tuesday, June 17. The free training will run from 7-8:30 p.m. at Tooele City Hall. Citizens who would like to attend should register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 435-843-2188.