QPR Training for Suicide Prevention

QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer. It is the training for suicide prevention to save the life. According to American Heart Association, they train more than 16 million people around the world on how to act during a cardiac emergency. It a training program designed to help to know how to react and what steps are to be taken when learning about someone is suicidal. Currently, more than 3 million people are trained in QPR.

Two decades ago, the clinical psychologist Paul Quinnett, Ph.D., founder and CEO of the QPR Institute, hit the road with a group of doctors and nurses were talking about suicide. A book was written about suicide for some of the patients who had attempted, but not succeeded. So, it led to people asking questions about how to deal with suicide within the practice of medicine. It’s just the general fear around this very taboo subject.


The clinical psychologist had a brainstorm around how CPR works and considered how it could be applied for a mental health emergency. In CPR, the training for the recognize symptoms and apply a technique to get them breathing again. Working with the public health department in Spokane, Washington, Quinnett has published a training manual for a three-step intervention. It could help save someone in a mental health emergency. The QPR Institute has grown from having a few 100 trainers to nearly 12,000 since 1999.

Nature of QPR training

QPR training can be completed through a 60-minute online course or through a 90-minute classroom seminar. While both provide the same education, the latter can end up being a little more impactful. During in-person classroom training, the last 30 minutes are spent practicing an intervention with a partner. It is basically a role play, or scenario-based learning. One person plays the role of a person in crisis, and another plays the “gatekeeper” role. It’s good practice to get the words out of the mouth, which is hard to do.

While suicide prevention training may sound dark, organizations around the country are hosting seminars. It is meant to dissolve the taboo around the topic. The Atlanta-based nonprofit Giving Kitchen, which advocates for food service workers offers free QPR training to restaurant workers through its website. Other companies are partnering with the QPR Institute to offer incentives to take the online training. For example, beauty brand Save Me From is offering savings on the course, as well as a discount on products for those who get certified. It is a move that is very personal for Save Me from Founder April Peck. She lost her sister to suicide and is now QPR certified.

QPR Institute has already been around 20 years, but they are just getting started. But still the suicide rate is rising dramatically in the U.S as now the 10th leading cause of death in the country. From 1999 through 2017, suicide rates increased 33 percent, according to the CDC, making it the highest rate seen since World War II. QPR Institute is collaborating with the federal government on grants to evaluate the QPR training effect. It is to check whether it’s impacting suicide rates. The suicide rate is rising in almost every county and state that the rate has slowed in places where training has taken place. It hasn’t lowered the suicide rate, but it has slowed the growth.

In the future, QPR Institute is looking to run micro-lessons via email so those who have taken the training can practice their skills. Therefore they can be better prepared to use them in event of an emergency. It’s sort of like having a plane on deck with the engine warm. The rate has slowed in places where training has taken place. 

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