CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The City of Clarksville has become the first city in Tennessee to provide suicide prevention training to its entire workforce, according to its training partner, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
The training program, known as QPR for Suicide Prevention, was conducted primarily by Misty Leitsch, TSPN’s Zero Suicide Director. QPR stands for “Question Persuade Refer.”
The training was delivered to nearly 1,200 City of Clarksville employees during a series of one-hour sessions scheduled over several months at City Hall and at various departmental headquarters.
“The QPR mission is to save lives and reduce suicidal behaviors by providing practical and proven suicide prevention training,” Leitsch said. “QPR was developed by Paul Quinnett in the 1990s and supported by the QPR Institute, so it’s an established way to train ordinary citizens on how to spot someone in crisis and how to approach them with help.”
Clarksville accepted the suicide prevention training challenge issued by Scott Ridgway, TSPN Executive Director, and the scheduling was carried out by the city’s Human Resources Department.
“Scheduling the entire workforce for specialized training like this is quite an accomplishment,” said HR Director Will Wyatt. “Once the training sessions started, word spread that the training was fun, useful and important, so that helped us reach our goal.”
In the aftermath of the training success at with the City, TSPN has arranged to continue the QPR suicide prevention training with employees of Montgomery County government.
The Clarksville-Montgomery County focus on suicide prevention is also reflected in community participation in the Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and Families. Inspired by that program, a local team is working with two federal agencies -- the Veterans Health Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration -- to find ways to prevent suicide in military communities.
The team is still evolving, but for now it's known as the Clarksville Suicide Prevention Alliance. Members have attended a three-day Policy Academy in Washington, D.C., where the group joined with delegations from six larger cities to develop evidence-based strategic plans to prevent suicide in communities using a comprehensive public health approach.
At the academy and in subsequent local meetings, the team has refined several priority topics. They are:
- Focus on distribution of suicide prevention messaging, and plan community caregiver training.
- Establish a Suicide Fatality Review Board to gather and analyze data.
- Pursue a sustaining structure for the Alliance and funding for a Community Suicide Prevention Director.
- Conduct a suicide community awareness and prevention summit in October.
IF YOU NEED HELP
People who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, or those who know someone in crisis, can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Or text TN to 741741 to connect to the Crisis Text Line and a trained counselor.
To lean more about the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, visit www.tspn.org. To learn more about the efforts of VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, visit https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention. For information on SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts.
Misty Leitsch, Zero Suicide Director, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, and members of the Clarksville Suicide Prevention Alliance, work on plans to bring more suicide prevention training to the Clarksville community. Leitsch has already completed training sessions for the City of Clarksville workforce. Pictured, from left, are Kara Merriam, Centerstone, Clarksville; Leitsch; Carrie Brensike, Tennessee Valley VA.; and Joey Smith; Montgomery County Health Director.