Thursday, September 14 | Thought Leadership, Human Services, Netsmart in the Community

Question, Persuade and Refer: The Importance of Suicide Prevention Training

By Liz Thiel, Vice President, Human Resources

Suicide is a public health crisis in the United States today and it’s estimated that 1.2 million people attempt suicide and 46,000 complete suicide annually. These staggering numbers are merely two of the statistics pointing to the national rise in suicide rates, an indicator that prevention and mental wellbeing should remain top of mind. By understanding mental health and suicide go hand-in-hand we can take the first step in reducing suicide risk and help heal our families, friends and loved-ones heal and grow forward as a community.

At Netsmart, we are committed to addressing this crisis through suicide awareness, empowerment and action. The QPR Suicide Prevention training is an internationally recognized program focused on equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to help someone in crisis. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer, a three-step program anyone can learn to help prevent suicide. We began offering this program to Netsmart associates in September 2021 and have already certified more than 200 associates. In recognition of September being Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we’ve set a goal of doubling this number by the end of the month.

Everyone has heard of CPR and recognizes that their role can be a critical part of keeping someone alive until medical help arrives. With QPR, you’re providing the same sort of crisis-related, temporary support until the individual connects with trained mental health professionals. The goal of the program is to equip you to spot warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide and how to leverage resources to get them help.

We are lucky to have nine associates certified to train others in QPR methodology. Each person agreed to invest their time and energy for a different reason but together they are living out the Netsmart value of ‘being a leader and a teacher’ in this very important cause. Below is an excerpt of our conversations with Janene Rowe, senior client success manager, Kelle McConnell, senior knowledge engineer and Ruby Wells, senior software engineer, about the program and why they each decided to become a QPR trainer.


“Why is QPR training importance and how does the training help prevent suicide?”

McConnell: Anyone can become a QPR Gatekeeper, which is what helps make the program successful.  A Gatekeeper is anyone in a position to recognize a crisis and warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. 

Rowe: QPR training provides the opportunity to offer hope through positive action and reaction. The training in and of itself does not prevent suicide, but it arms individuals with the knowledge to provide saving care at the moment, the ability to interrupt the current journey and provide hope.


“What does QPR training entail?”

Rowe: QPR training entails attending a QPR session held by a certified trainer.  The session will help to break down the myths surrounding suicide, utilize the QPR standard of Question, Persuade and Refer and provide the attendee with basic tools to offer hope.

Wells: During the training, we will go over statistics and myths/facts about suicide. Then we will discuss the QPR methodology – Question, Persuade, and Refer. These three steps will provide you with the skills to identify the warning signs that someone may be considering suicide, the confidence to speak to them about their thoughts and the tools to guide the person to seek professional help. Lastly, we discuss the available resources on both a national and local level.


“What made you want to become a QPR trainer?”

McConnell: I became a QPR Gatekeeper trainer because I needed something positive to come out of tragic situations that have affected me. Opening the door to conversations about suicide helps diminish the stigma around suicide and suicidal thoughts. I just wanted to help prevent more of these tragedies by sharing the knowledge with others.

Rowe: I think all of us at one point or another has known someone directly related to a completed suicide. Because suicide is very personal to me, I wanted the opportunity to offer hope, education, and the ability to break down the negative perception surrounding a completed suicide. Suicide is preventable, if I can arm anyone with the basic knowledge of not being afraid to ask the question and utilize the persuade and refer techniques to save even one life, then we will all be in a better place.

Wells: I wanted to become a QPR trainer because I enjoy sharing knowledge with others. Suicide is a topic one might want to avoid, but it is important to talk about it since many people are experiencing different crises all around us. QPR involves three simple steps that anyone can learn that could potentially help save a life.

Awareness is the first step to prevention, and we all can play a role in supporting one another, preventing suicide and removing the stigma surrounding mental health. To learn more about QPR training and how you can become certified click here. Help is out there and being educated on the signs and symptoms of depression can help save lives. The  National Institute of Mental Health  (NIH) has a variety of information, resources and support available.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, contact the national helpline by calling or texting the numbers 9-8-8. 


Meet the Author

Liz Thiel · Vice President, Human Resources


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