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Hill hosts suicide prevention program

By Erin Donnelly

Feb. 6, 2013 1:37 a.m.

“Mark” is 25 years old, in a failing relationship and might be feeling suicidal.

“I feel like the world would be better off without me,” said Mary Sau, a third-year psychobiology student, while in character as “Mark” during a suicide prevention training program on the Hill Tuesday night. It was up to her peers to effectively convince her character to seek help.

UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services began hosting similar training programs more than five years ago for faculty members, graduate students and student groups to help prepare community leaders to try to prevent the second-leading cause of death for college students: suicide.

The QPR – or question, persuade and refer – certification is designed to teach people how to recognize when one of their friends or peers might be at risk for suicide.

The training was offered on the Hill for the first time last quarter as part of attempt to reach a wider range of students because many people go to their friends or family before getting professional help, said Dr. Melissa Magaro, a counseling psychologist with CAPS who hosted the night’s event.

“The whole model is to train non-professionals to identify warning signs (of suicide),” Magaro said. “You don’t have to be a leader.”

Since the program’s inception, CAPS has been trying to reach more students by expanding the number of places with easy outreach for students, such as the Hill, Magaro said.

The number of students who visit CAPS each year has jumped from about 3,500 student visitors seven years ago to more than 6,200 last year. Not all of the students were necessarily considering suicide, though Magaro said it is important to addresses all forms of depression no matter how severe. Common indicators of suicidal risk are stress, sleep deprivation, depression and anxiety, Magaro said during the program.

At least 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illness, which makes it important for students to approach people with understanding. Magaro said. She added that most people hint or have indicators that they are thinking about suicide in the week before.

The program Tuesday night incorporated a music video and suicide statistics into the presentation, as well as tips on how to handle a situation where students think a peer may be suicidal. But the participants appeared to most enjoy the final role-playing, where students had to put the skills they just learned to use.

“The role-playing (especially) helped me with what I would say and how I would refer people (in real life),” Sau said.

Sau said she attended Tuesday’s program because a friend recently came to her for advice on how to approach another friend who is suicidal, and she was unsure of what to tell the friend. She hopes to use what she learned at the program to better advise her friend, she said.

Another participant, first-year psychology student Lucero Gomez, also came to the event because she was unsure how to approach someone she thought might be depressed, she said. She saw some concerning posts on a family member’s Facebook page, she added.

“I just didn’t really know how to react to it,” Gomez said.

CAPS plans to offer the training again toward the middle of next quarter, Magaro said.

Contributing reports by Estefani Herrera, Bruin contributor.

Email Donnelly at [email protected].
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