Illawarra residents urged to complete QPR suicide prevention course


Question. Persuade. Refer.

It’s three simple steps that anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide says Illawarra psychologist Dr Alex Hains.

And – as community members are encouraged to learn CPR to potentially save lives – Dr Hains is urging the public to learn QPR to do the same for those people struggling with suicidal thoughts.

The regional manager of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative said the internationally-renowned QPR training program had proven to be effective in saving lives.

QPR is a one-hour online training course that costs just $10 – less than most people’s lunch – that will help people recognise and confidently respond to warning signs of suicide,” Dr Hains said.

Shared goal: Keira MP Ryan Park, Dr Alex Hains and Illawarra Mercury editor Julian O'Brien. Picture: Robert Peet

Shared goal: Keira MP Ryan Park, Dr Alex Hains and Illawarra Mercury editor Julian O'Brien. Picture: Robert Peet

“We want to get 10 per cent of the population in the Illawarra Shoalhaven to do QPR. The reason we’ve set that goal is that if one in 10 people have done the training, it will mean people who are struggling are very likely to come into contact with people who will know how to help them.”

The Mercury has joined forces with the Collaborative to reach that goal – and has enlisted the help of local politicians to lobby for funding to get community members trained up. Parents, partners, relatives, friends, colleagues – anyone wanting to help those around them get the support they need.

And there’s been bipartisan support to roll out QPR locally – with Keira MP Ryan Park securing $10,000 from NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to fund training for 1000 local residents. 

This is encouraging for Dr Hains who said QPR training not only works to redress the many myths around suicide, it also helps people recognise the signs and respond appropriately.

“The training will give people the confidence to ask a family member, friend or colleague, about their suicidal thoughts without reverting to awkward euphemisms,” he said.

“One of the myths relates to the perceived danger of talking about suicide. That by talking to someone about suicide might put the idea in their minds and increase the risk of suicide.

“Instead we need to understand that we can ask people if they’re thinking about suicide and we can do that directly and by doing so it could save a life.

“Ask questions like ‘Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?’ or ‘Have you ever thought life is not worth living?’.”

The next step, Dr Hains says, is to listen – and persuade people to access the services that could help.

“Don’t think you have to solve all their problems – sitting and listening can be incredibly helpful for someone who’s struggling,” he says. “After listening you can encourage, or persuade, them to take action to seek help.”

Referring people to GPs and psychologists, crisis support and suicide prevention services such as Lifeline are good options, but they’re not the only ones.

“There’s a lot of support options – it doesn’t have to be a clinical mental health treatment – it could be to do with getting relationship advice, financial support, religious guidance or other areas of assistance,” Dr Hains said.

Finally, Dr Hains encouraged people to keep checking in with their friend, family member or colleague – to follow up and ensure they’ve sought the help they need. And most importantly, to make sure they’re okay.

To secure one of the 1000 free QPR licences, current for three years, community members should go to