‘This training … saved my life’
Area residents can receive QPR training at Wednesday’s Longevity Project event
Yampa Valley resident Meghan Francone has taught classes for thousands of people about suicide prevention during the past decade, but one local instance stands out.
She was teaching an educational session for a classroom of students at Moffat County High School, and a male teenager in the back of the room was not engaging in the training — at all. Francone was concerned.
A year later, she was teaching again at the high school when she saw that teenager walk past the classroom several times. When the training was complete, the teenager came up and handed her a note written on a torn-off section of notebook paper. The note read, “This training that you offered not only saved my life, but I was able to help another friend, as well. Thank you for the training.”
That is just one reason why Francone works as the suicide prevention coordinator for the local nonprofit REPS, or Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, on top of her demanding job as executive director of the nonprofit Open Heart Advocates, the provider of victims advocacy and services in Moffat County.
“At almost every training I give, someone comes up either immediately to say I’m going to go home and use this with a family member, a loved one or a co-worker,” Francone said. “Or they see me, call me or email me later and say, ‘Right after you gave that training, I was able to use that.’”
The teenager who wrote the note was about the same age as Francone’s brother-in-law who died from suicide at age 15. Francone also openly talks about how she survived her own suicide attempt in high school.
For assistance related to suicide, individuals can contact the local REPS — Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide — at 970-846-8182 or call the Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255, which provides free, confidential support 24/7. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
As 103 Routt and Moffat county residents have died from suicide from 2010 through 2020, REPS leaders encourage attendance at the public session starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the auditorium at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. The two-hour session will include a presentation by Francone about the simple, invaluable technique called QPR, or Question, Persuade, Refer, which anyone in the community can use to help someone talking about or considering suicide.
Wednesday’s keynote speaker is Kevin Hines, 40, who, as a 19-year-old teenager suffering from depression and bipolar disorder, survived an attempt to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Hines fell 220 feet at about 75 miles per hour and survived. Now an author, educator and filmmaker, Hines is the subject of the 2019 documentary “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.”
Francone said QPR training can be equated to CPR, a life-saving technique that is valuable to learn for when the need arises.
Francone especially encourages attendance by coaches, educators, health care and emergency services providers, support staff at schools, youth, faith leaders, bosses and employees of nonprofits who offer boots-on-the-ground services.
“Silence itself is a killer,” she said. “So, we all need to be educated in how to talk with people about suicide. Not talking about it is not working.”
Experts say suicide is preventable. Francone said even practicing saying the word suicide and asking a question out loud can help break down social barriers about the topic. Francone said the “power tool” when helping someone experiencing suicidal thoughts is listening.
What: The Longevity Project Live Event
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in the Yampa Valley. This year’s project will focus on the critical and relevant topic of mental health. Join for presentations from keynote speaker Kevin Hines and Meghan Francone, suicide prevention coordinator of REPS — Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide — in Moffat County.
When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Ave.
More info: Visit SteamboatPilot.com/longevity
Some examples of QPR sentences could include:
Question: “I hear you say you want to kill yourself, tell me about that.” Or for a youth, “So do you ever wish you could go to sleep and not wake up?”
Persuade: “I’m here with you. We will get through this together.”
Refer: “Who else cares enough about you who would want to know the way you are feeling?” Then stay with the person experiencing suicidal thoughts until additional help arrives.
“It’s a lot like CPR— you do not stop CPR, or QPR, until you can make a warm hand-off,” Francone noted.
Routt County Search and Rescue Vice President Harry Sandler said Question, Persuade, Refer training is very valuable to search-and-rescue crews and for other community members.
“It’s a life-saving opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life that also affects their family, their friends and their community,” Sandler said.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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