Counseling and Psychological Services has adopted a new program that aims to prevent suicide by training people to recognize signs in those who are close to them.

“We know that folks want to help in these situations,” CAPS Director Todd Sevig said. “What this program does is give the tools.”

The University has joined about 60 colleges that use the popular Question Persuade and Refer program. The initiative teaches students and faculty members to recognize early verbal and behavioral signs of depression and to use a system of questioning the person, persuading him to get help and referring him to trained professionals.

In the past few years, the method has gained popularity on college campuses because it spreads a wider net of intervention.

More faculty members will be trained under the new program with the hope that their closer contact with students will lead to earlier interventions.

Since the program began on Nov. 13, CAPS has received more than 50 requests for training from various University units and departments, said Christine Asidao, assistant director of outreach and education for CAPS.

In 2004 and 2005, CAPS conducted a mental health survey and found that 23 percent of University students reported “some degree of suicidal thoughts over a period of two weeks,” Asidao said.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among college students in the United States, and the suicide rate is estimated at 7.5 per 100,000 students. This is half the rate for non-students in the same 18 to 24-year-old age group. Forty percent of college students know of someone who has attempted suicide, and 25 percent know of someone who has died by it, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Each year there are 1,100 suicides and an additional 24,000 attempted suicides by college-aged students, according to the journal.

Since its establishment in 1999, the QPR Institute, which developed the system the University has adopted, has addressed suicide prevention through education and training with an emphasis on warning signs and early intervention.

“QPR recognizes that even socially isolated individuals who are at suicidal risk have contact with potentially helpful individuals in the community,” Asidao said.

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