With at least 30 deaths from suicide confirmed in Jefferson County from August 2016 to mid-February 2017, Lifespring offered a training session this week on how to help someone who may be at risk.

“That’s an average of five a month, more than one a week,” said Emily McDarment, a Lifespring therapist, adding that those suicide deaths were confirmed because the person who died left behind a note. “That really shook me to my core.”

She said data for all of 2017 hasn’t been compiled, mostly because suicides here are happing so often, keeping Coroner Rodney Nay busy just completing the paperwork required for each case.

McDarment said the key to helping someone who might be in crisis is to talk with them and ask questions. “Everyone can help prevent the tragedy of suicide.”

She also discussed some of the myths related to suicide, such as the idea that asking someone if they are contemplating suicide will give them the idea. Most likely, it’s already something that has crossed their mind, she said.

“Most of the time, they will be relieved that you are asking the question and willing to help,” McDarment said. “Usually, it is met with gratitude.”

Another myth is that suicidal people will keep their plans to themselves. “Most communicate their intent at some time during the week leading up to an attempt,” she said. “You always have to take it seriously and not dismiss it as attention-seeking.”

More importantly, “if you suspect someone is suicidal, don’t leave them alone,” she said. “

Her colleague, case manager Kara Sedam, agreed. Even if it makes you late for work or miss dinner at home, she added. “Nothing is more important than stopping someone from killing themselves.”

McDarment explained the QPR method: Question, Persuade, Refer.

“Asking the question is the most important thing you need to do,” she said. “It could be all they needed was for someone to ask.”

But how you ask that one important question is critical.

“Don’t ask them, ‘You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?’ The answer to that will always be ‘no.’ ”

That phrasing also carries a judgmental tone, even if its unintentional, which must be avoided, she said. Open-ended questions are best. “Ask them, ‘Have you been thinking about suicide?’”

Other options are: Have you been unhappy lately? Do you want to end your life? Have you ever thought you wanted to go to sleep and not wake up?

“Ask in private, one-on-one,” McDarment said. “Allow the person to talk freely and don’t interrupt. Be cautious with your body language and facial reactions. Give yourself plenty of time to spend with them when you ask the question.”

After getting a conversation going with the person, she said it’s important to persuade them to seek help.

If they agree, the next step is to refer them to a clinic or a professional who can help.

When the person agrees to get help, make sure they have someone to go with them. Get family and friends involved; never keep it a secret, even if the person makes you promise not to tell anyone.

“They have to have a support team,” she said. “It’s important to have someone else who knows whatever the plan is” that the person and the mental health professional agree on to help them stay on that plan. “It’s a tighter safety net.”

It’s crucial to make the person you are worried about understand that there is hope,” she said. “Tell them: I want you to live. I’m on your side. We’ll get through this.

“People don’t want to die, it’s just the only option they can think of ... they want the pain to end.”

Clues to watch for

McDarment said there are many clues that should raise red flags that a person is contemplating suicide.

Most significant is if the person has attempted suicide in the past, because the next time it is “less unknown, less scary and they learn how to do it more efficiently.”

Another significant red flag is if the person is in recovery and has relapsed. “When that happens, they are more impulsive and less rational,” she said.

Other clues are if the person is acquiring guns or stockpiling pills or any lethal method; other behaviors to watch for are moodiness, hopelessness, chronic depression, getting affairs in order and/or giving away prized possessions, a sudden interest or disinterest in religion, unexplained anger, aggression and irritability.

For more information about QPR and suicide prevention, call Lifespring at (812) 265-4513.

For immediate assistance, call (800) 273-8255 (TALK) or (800) 784-2433 (SUICIDE). For military veterans, contact Vets4Warriors at (855) 838-8255.