Former Illawarra Mercury staffer Karen Neumann talks about the importance of undertaking QPR training

CAMPAIGN: (Inset) Karen Neumann recently undertook the QPR training. (Main picture) Vince O'Farrell hitting the funny bone while at work at the Mercury in 2009. Picture: Robert Peet
CAMPAIGN: (Inset) Karen Neumann recently undertook the QPR training. (Main picture) Vince O'Farrell hitting the funny bone while at work at the Mercury in 2009. Picture: Robert Peet

Given her family history, when Karen Neumann saw the opportunity to undertake training in suicide prevention, she wanted to do so. 

“Anything that comes up that I can do to get information and get qualification is where I’m heading,” she said.

“Anything that I can do… That will stop someone else, that I can help someone else, that means a lot to me.”

The Mercury, with the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, is running a campaign to get more residents trained in suicide prevention through the QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer online course. 

QPR is a one-hour, online training which gives people the confidence to talk to a colleague, peer or family member about their suicidal thoughts and connect them with professional care.

Figtree resident Karen Neumann, 50, has undertaken the QPR training. 

Mrs Neumann, who worked in the Mercury’s art department for 23 years, said the training was important to her because her brother Vince O’Farrell attempted suicide on several occasions.

“It was something I was well aware of dealing with,” she said.

“It (the training) brought up a few things about asking the right questions and recognising the signs. 

“The more people that are aware, the better.”

Award-winning cartoonist O’Farrell worked at the Mercury for 27 years until 2013.

O’Farrell was one of Australia’s most highly acclaimed political cartoonists, winning more than 20 national and state awards.

He died of heart failure in late 2015. 

“It wasn’t suicide, but it was suicide-related, because he’d had so many attempts,” Mrs Neumann said of her sibling’s death. 

“His body gave out in the end from the damage that was done previously.”

Mrs Neumann said he was open about his battles with mental illness. 

“I think the more people that are qualified, or can recognise the signs, the less that needs to happen in people’s lives and families.

“I was always looking for answers and information, and anything that pops up like that I’m straight on to.

“And it’s spurred me on to go and study psychology at university myself.”

Mrs Neumann said she plans to “work in some sort of mental health helping capacity, whether it’s psychology, social work, wherever this takes me”.

She also encouraged others to complete the QPR training. 

The QPR training is available at a cost of $10. 

For more information, visit the Suicide Prevention Collaborative QPR website.

If you or someone you know needs support now, please call Lifeline 24/7 on 131 114.