Health

Louisville Metro government and community partners will hold suicide prevention training at more than 85 locations next month.

The free training will be offered September 9 to 15, which is National Suicide Prevention Week. It comes as deaths by suicide have been on the rise both nationwide and in Kentucky — 776 people in Kentucky killed themselves in 2017.

The training is called QPR, which stands for, “question, persuade, refer,” and is designed to last 90 minutes. The goal is to educate people on how to talk with someone who might be at risk for killing themselves. Dr. Val Slayton, a member of the Louisville Health Advisory Board’s behavioral health committee, said the training is part of the committee’s effort to bring suicides in Louisville down to zero.

“The concept is that any suicide that exists may be related to an opportunity to stop that suicide,” said Slayton, who is also regional vice president for health services at Humana. “And an important part of being able to stop suicide is by having individuals understand what to look for. And then how to intervene.”

City leaders say part of the reason for the training is to put more attention on suicide in Jefferson County. There were 584 deaths by suicide in Jefferson County between 2011 and 2015; more than the 333 homicides that occurred during the same period, according to the Louisville Metro 2017 Health Equity Report.

Slayton said friends and family can do something to help prevent suicide, because most people who are at-risk of killing themselves will display warning signs. Those can include talking about wanting to die or feeling hopeless, sleeping too little or too much and withdrawal from friends and family.

Mayor Greg Fischer said the training is aimed at getting people more comfortable in approaching someone they think is showing warning signs.

“This training can make that difference … we can all get a better sense of what to look for and not feel so lost when you’re dealing with a situation that just doesn’t feel right to you, but you just don’t know what to do,” Fischer said.

Dr. David Hanna is the behavioral health program manager for insurance company Passport Health. He said years ago his neighbor had attempted to kill himself. Hanna was the first one to get to his neighbor and called 911.

“That young man, who only moments before had thought he wanted to die, wanted to live,” Hanna said. “As a clinical psychologist, I know the difference that sympathetic intervention makes, and we’re excited to participate in this initiative.”

Nationwide, the suicide rate has increased by almost 30 percent between 1999 and 2016, except for people over the age of 75, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of those people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

Kentucky’s suicide rate was ranked 16th nationwide in 2017.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.