Seminar focuses on suicide prevention

Seventy-five Americans nationwide and one San Diego county resident will commit suicide every day, according to Community Health Improvement Partners.

Hector Martinez, from the Mental Health America San Diego Organization, visited Palomar on April 26 to give a presentation on how to handle a situation where suicide may be a risk. The organization is “dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and achieving victory over mental illnesses through advocacy, education, research and service.”

Martinez was invited by JoAnne Lesser, a Palomar College counselor.

The presentation was made up of jaw-dropping statistics, different scenarios and a few videos all related to the taboo subject of suicide.

Suicide seems to be something Americans are not willing to talk about openly. Martinez’s presentation revolved around a three-step process one should take when he or she thinks someone they know may be contemplating suicide.

The process is known as QPR: Question, Persuade and Refer. Martinez said that QPR is not professional counseling,

“It’s not our job to fix, just to question, persuade and give this person hope,” Martinez said.

It all starts with a question. Though it may be uncomfortable, according to Martinez this is the most serious step. You cannot help anyone if you don’t ask, “Are you thinking about ending your life?”

Martinez gave several renditions of this question as well as more indirect ways of asking.

He brought up well-circulated myths about bringing up the topic of suicide to someone with such thoughts like “confronting someone about suicide will only increase the risk.”

One of the most important points of the seminar is that this myth is false.

“A lot of people think that by talking about it, you’re going to push them over the edge,” said Martinez.

He then went on to say that just by asking someone if they are having these types of thoughts, a lot of the time it relieves them of a huge amount of pressure.

According to his presentation, many people with suicidal thoughts haven’t had anyone approach them or sometimes don’t have anyone to talk to at all. His said his aim is to make people aware that this is a problem and hopefully eliminate it altogether.

The second point was to persuade, persuading this person to stay alive. Persuade them to believe they are important and that their situation could get better. Most importantly, that you are there for them.

The final point was to refer. Martinez reiterated that just because you are educated on the topic, doesn’t mean you are a professional. Refer this person to professional help, like a doctor.

He gave several helpful resources that anyone can use.

Mainly hotlines to call into like 211, a free 24/7 hotline that serves San Diego County with community, health and disaster services and (800) 479-3339, the Access & Crisis Line where someone may call if they are fearing for someone’s changed behavior.

Martinez said he was exposed to this program when his friend had used the QPR process on him. He was having panic attacks and experiencing paranoia. If his friend hadn’t reached out, Martinez wouldn’t be helping others just like himself today.

Students like Nick Pepe attended the the workshop to learn how to act in situations where suicide is a risk.

“I wanted to get more information on how to help people I know that have experienced this,” Pepe said.

Much of the presentation brought up different warning signs such as loss of a job, loss of a major relationship, and many others.

“San Diego county rates are dropping,not dramatically, but they are going down,” Martinez said.

Martinez’s long-term goal is to have zero completed suicides in San Diego county by presenting QPR.

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Author: April Testerman

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