Say a student who is usually outgoing and friendly has become quiet and withdrawn. The change in behavior concerns you. What do you do?
Answering that question is the goal of Buffalo State Cares: A Call for Bystanders to Prevent Suicide on Campus. The project director is Joan McCool, who has been responding to students in need for more than 30 years. She started her career as a counselor at the Counseling Center. Today, she is the center’s director as well as director of Buffalo State Cares, which is funded by a $306,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The Center for Development of Human Services (CDHS) and Crisis Services are partners on the project.
Buffalo State Cares is a comprehensive campus suicide prevention program that will provide campus community members with tools to recognize and respond to students at risk of suicide. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Buffalo State Cares is a multipronged attempt to prevent suicides, and question, persuade, respond (QPR) is one of its key components. QPR follows the model established by CPR: teach people what to do so they can use their training when a life-threatening situation arises.
“QPR is really an extension of creating a civil, caring campus community,” said McCool. “Our goal is to provide this training to as many groups as possible, including community groups off-campus.” The 90-minute training enables “gatekeepers”—anyone in a position to notice someone at risk of suicide—to respond effectively, whether the gatekeeper is a friend, professor, supervisor, or emergency medical technician.
While QPR is usually less dramatic than CPR, its effect are no less lifesaving. The training enables gatekeepers to
-recognize the warning signs of suicide
-know how to offer hope
-know how to get help and save a life
The Counseling Center offers free QPR training to any student group, class, department, office, or organization on campus.
“People who are trained in QPR learn how to ask if someone is thinking about harming themselves,” said McCool.
People who ponder suicide often do not want to die; they want their pain to end. QPR shows bystanders how to intervene by persuading a person to seek help, and assisting the person at risk to connect with resources. “Some faculty members have walked students over to the Counseling Center,” said McCool.
Note that it’s important to connect the person at risk with a professional who can assess the situation and respond in ways that have proven to be successful in saving lives.
Help is always available, even when the Counseling Center is not open. “University Police is always available,” said McCool, “and so is Crisis Services.”
QPR is just one component of the Buffalo State Cares initiative. “The grant has enabled us to hire a part-time outreach worker to proactively contact student groups,” said McCool. A public service announcement campaign to publicize the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-(800) 273-TALK (8255), is in the works and special projects will be developed to meet the needs of students at higher risk of suicide.
To make an appointment at the Counseling Center, students can call (716) 878-4436 or stop in. “Our services are confidential,” said McCool. “We are here to help students, whether it’s managing stress or preventing suicide.”
Buffalo State Counseling Center: (716) 878-4436
Buffalo State Counseling Center QPR Training: (716) 878-4847
Crisis Services: (716) 834-3131
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-(800) 273-TALK (8255)
University Police Department: (716) 878-6333
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