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Davis Journal

As Suicide Prevention Month ends, QPR offers a way forward

Sep 28, 2023 09:09AM ● By Braden Nelsen
The three key points to QPR could mean the difference in saving a life. Photos courtesy QPR Facebook

The three key points to QPR could mean the difference in saving a life. Photos courtesy QPR Facebook

DAVIS COUNTY - Since the 1960s, people have learned and known the benefits of CPR for many different life-saving situations. Thanks to widespread efforts to educate communities, thousands of people across the country have become CPR-certified, saving hundreds of lives. But what about mental health? What’s the equivalent for someone struggling mentally and emotionally?

While resources are available like the 988 number, anything like the CPR rescue training has been severely lacking in health circles until the innovation of QPR by Dr. Paul Quinnett. In the mid-1990s, Quinnett was working in a large mental health program in the Spokane area when he decided something needed to be done.

Despite receiving mental health care, Quinnett said the program was losing thousands of patients a year to suicide, “losses on my watch, as it were,” and he knew something had to be done. He decided to, “find out why these people were dying while on mental health care,” and a study began.

Working with the help of a research grant, Dr. Quinnett set to work to find out why these people were dying by suicide, and why, it seemed, no one could help them. What he found led to the creation of a revolutionary new program that has been spreading ever since. When it came to suicide, Dr. Quinnett discovered that many health care and mental health professionals simply were, “unable to ask the suicide question in a forthright and direct manner.”

This meant that many professionals struggled to ask patients, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Instead, they would often ask questions looking for a negative response, like, “You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?” “The most difficult thing to do is ask the question,” said Dr. Quinnett, and therefore, the Q in QPR came as almost an inspiration.

The P in QPR stands for “persuade.” The idea is to simply persuade someone who might be considering ending their own life to seek help. Dr. Quinnett explained that it’s like persuading someone who is in physical pain to seek medical attention: if someone has a severe toothache, they should probably see a dentist, likewise, with mental health, “maybe we can reduce the pain you’re feeling,” and help them see there’s hope.

The last step, R, is for “Refer”, which is what persuading naturally leads to. Dr. Quinnett says that this last step is “an art form.” Just like referring someone to a great car mechanic, or a tasty restaurant, referring someone to a mental health professional takes trust and knowledge. Gaining that knowledge and experience is just one of the many benefits of the training offered by the QPR Institute, “It’s the CPR equivalent”, said Dr. Quinnett.

Dr. Quinette went on to explain how in Seattle, the chance to survive a cardiac event is much higher than anywhere else in the country. Why? Because more people are CPR-certified there than anywhere else. Dr. Quinnett wants to do the same thing with QPR across the country, and part of that is recognizing the signs and signals.

QPR trainees develop what one trainee called a “spidey sense”, like the superhero Spider-man. They’re able to pick up on distress signals, and their training goes into action. They’re able to question, persuade, and refer quickly, and save lives. The key, said Dr. Quinnett is to intervene early, and boldly. 

What may come as a surprise, is the disproportionate way that suicidal thoughts affect men over women. Across the globe, men are generally two times as likely to die by suicide, but in both Europe and the Americas, that number can be double. Dr. Quinnett explained that much of this stems from the fact that “men don’t seek help well.”

Culturally, many men have a natural distrust of strangers, and therefore, “the more they feel vulnerable, the less likely they are to ask for help.” While things are improving, Dr. Quinnett says that programs like QPR are imperative in helping everyone, but especially men who struggle to ask for help, “we have to make a huge leap.

It’s a leap that the QPR institute is making, however. After starting with just a few hundred in their first year, the number of trainees is now past 6 million. Part of that success comes from allowing anyone to train, not just healthcare professionals. Dr. Quinnett cites the 15,000 instructors the program has worldwide and the over 3,000 more that are currently in training as evidence of their success.

While QPR is a great start, it’s not the endgame says Dr. Quinnett. The founder and CEO of QPR spoke about the need for a new profession, and that they’re “getting traction” in getting the program off the ground. The idea would be an entire workforce of the mental health equivalent of EMTs: people who can respond at a moment's notice to those struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm. 

With both in-person and online opportunities to be trained in QPR, Davis County residents have the tools to be able to learn and prevent. The training is cost-effective, and the benefits are priceless. Utah has an average of about 657 deaths by suicide each year, and each could be prevented with the proper training. More information about QPR, its training, and how to become certified can be found at