Leadership Cheyenne suicide prevention

Rhianna Brand, operations manager for Grace For 2 Brothers, closes up a presentation about suicide prevention given to Leadership Cheyenne, a program lead through the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. They will leave the class certified in suicide prevention by the Question Persuade Refer(QPR) Institute. Jacob Byk/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Dozens of local professionals earned a suicide prevention certification Wednesday, hoping to help combat a prevalent crisis in Wyoming.

The Leadership Cheyenne Class of 2019, with the assistance of the local nonprofit Grace For 2 Brothers, is now certified in Question, Persuade and Refer, or QPR, an emergency mental health intervention created in 1995 by the QPR Institute. It’s the first class to complete the hour-and-a-half-long program.

Leadership Cheyenne, hosted through the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, is a yearlong professional development and community enrichment program established in 1985.

QPR stresses a strong positive response to early suicide warning signs, identifying and interrupting the crisis, and finding proper care. It’s not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment by a mental health professional.

“It’s about being able to get comfortable, or more comfortable, with the discussion,” said Grace For 2 Brothers director of operations Rhianna Brand, now a master trainer in the course. “It’s never going to be comfortable to have a conversation about suicide, but we need to have these three steps down – what questions you’re going to ask, what symptoms you’re addressing and where you’re going to get them help.”

The three-year certification is offered throughout Wyoming, but primarily in Laramie County.

“I do this because I have a lot of losses,” Brand said. “I lost my uncle, I lost a lot of friends along the way, and I’m an also an attempt survivor myself.”

Every year, Leadership Cheyenne hosts about 12 educational series, and QPR was just one piece of a larger health-care summit. In addition to listening to Brand’s presentation, the group participated in role-playing scenarios to put what they learned into practice.

Members of the class said the certification will act as a community tool, especially in their respective workplaces.

“I think this is a huge thing for Wyoming,” said Kylie Taylor, Leadership Cheyenne participant and education program specialist at the Wyoming Department of Education. “When I was in high school at East, there was a span of two years where about eight girls all committed suicide. I think it’s super important for this training to go through our schools, too.”

Wyoming regularly ranks among the highest in suicide rates nationwide. The rate has significantly increased from 17 deaths per 100,000 in 2004 to 24 deaths per 100,000 in 2016.

Wyoming also ranked third behind Montana and Alaska for gun suicides in 2016, according to a report released recently by the Violence Policy Center. From 2004-16, 64 percent of suicides in Wyoming were completed with firearms.

Brand said the state’s isolation, access to firearms, limited mental-health services and attitudes about mental health all contribute to this.

“People in Pine Bluffs, for example, have to drive 45 minutes into town, take an hour to do their therapy and drive 45 minutes back,” she said. “That’s a half-day’s work, and people can’t really afford that.”

Brand said directly asking someone if they’re feeling suicidal can lower the person’s anxiety, open up communication and lower the risk of an impulsive act.

“I’ve been on the receiving end of this, and I can tell you it was like a weight was lifted off of me,” Brand said.

If the person says yes, don’t overreact or jump to judgment, she said. Ask if there’s someone you can call to make them feel safe immediately, listen intently and, finally, ask if you can help them find professional services. She also suggests offering help in any form, and following through on those commitments.

In the event of an immediate crisis, anyone can text WYO to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

For more news from the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, visit https://www.wyomingnews.com/.

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