Vanessa Beetham didn't get involved in suicide prevention until after her family had already experienced the tragedy of suicide. A San Diego resident since 2000, Ms. Beetham was recently trained in the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) model of suicide prevention through the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council (SDCSPC), facilitated by Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP). QPR trainings are designed to give members of the general public the basic skills to recognize the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide, what questions to ask, and how to offer hope and help. Five months after this training, Ms. Beetham successfully applied the QPR model and helped save the life of a close family friend.
"In 2009 my extensively travelled 48 year-old brother set out on a journey no one had predicted - he completed suicide,” explained Ms. Beetham. “In response to listening to my mother breaking on the other end of the phone, I threw it hard across the room, as if by doing so I could undo what I had just been told.”
“As I made my way home to Ballarat Victoria Australia, where we had grown up, and where my brother had decided to die, I wondered why?” described Ms. Beetham. “I questioned, how could this be? What signs did we miss? The truth is that no one knew my brother was suffering from undiagnosed depression."
From her involvement with the SDCSPC meetings and the QPR training program, it became apparent to Ms. Beetham that she had missed so many signs: weight loss, inability to sleep, anger, reckless behavior and withdrawal.
“As I sat in the training session listening to an outline of clues and warning signs unfold I lost my breath,” Ms. Beetham explained. “Then I heard the words behind the QPR model, ‘Question, Persuade, Refer.’ Ask a question, save a life. So simple.”
CHIP and the SDCSPC are crucial in educating our communities about this most preventable death. In honor of her brother, Ms. Beetham is making it her purpose to provide education on suicide prevention to anyone who will stand still long enough.
“As a former teacher, I would like to see QPR training sessions available to all school counselors, teachers, coaches and middle and high school students,” said Ms. Beetham. “Knowledge is power and where suicide is concerned, knowledge is lifesaving. The impact of suicide on those left behind is for life. I feel it every time I look into the eyes of my mother, my brother's wife, his two children and all those who loved him. I do not want anyone to ever walk in our shoes.”
It is from CHIP's involvement in suicide prevention that Ms. Beetham was able to recently save a life across the world in Australia. By applying QPR, her family friend was able to see the birth of his baby girl and is on his way to recovery.
“I can't thank CHIP enough for what they are doing for our communities," Ms. Beetham said.
To be a part of the solution and learn more about the warning signs of suicide and how to apply the QPR model for suicide prevention, QPR trainings are offered throughout San Diego County. If you would like to attend or host your own QPR training, contact Lora Cayanan at Lcayanan@sdchip.org or call (858) 609-7971. Community resources on suicide prevention are available at www.up2sd.org.
SDCSPC has a vision of zero suicides in San Diego County. By building upon existing resources, extending partnerships and broadening the reach of education and training, SDCSPC will prevent one of the leading causes of death in our county. Through County funding, SDCSPC is able to provide suicide prevention trainings for free so that all San Diegans have the opportunity to prevent suicide.