Eau Claire (WQOW) – Monday local and state leaders were in Eau Claire to discuss a tough topic: suicide.
The new 15-member bipartisan Suicide Prevention Task Force spoke with members of the Department of Justice, Department of Corrections, and Department of Military Affairs about what they’re doing to help their colleagues struggling with thoughts of suicide.
The goal of the task force is to figure out what other departments are doing to help those who are suicidal.
They will identify the best practices, and include those in a report and plan for the the next legislative session.
Monday the 15-member bipartisan task force focused on the alarming suicide rates among law enforcement, first responders, and veterans.
“They do have higher rates of suicide than the general population and that’s why we focused on those three areas,” said Representative Joan Ballweg, chair of the task force.
“I think it’s what we see everyday,” said Erin Dunahay with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. “The things that we see are stressful. The suicide attempts, the self harm, the mental health with the inmates, working many hours, lack of pay maybe, we have a higher divorce rate.”
Officials said there has often been a stigma surrounding discussions of mental health and suicide.
Holly Hakes, the executive director of Real Living, said that’s changing.
“The current approaches to helping people talk about suicide are much more direct then they were in the past,” Hakes said. “The QPR training really encourages people to come right out and say it.”
QPR stands for question, persuade, and refer.
“It’s very simple,” said Dunahay. “Very similar to CPR, you’re just asking the people the question, you’re persuading them to get help and you’re making proper referrals for them to get help.”
At the meeting, the group discussed a growing shortage of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists as well as ways to encourage more people to get in the field.
Hakes said tackling suicide prevention doesn’t start and end with professional help though, it takes a village for change, and she said these meetings could yield real results.
“It was inspiring to me because any one of these kinds of meetings anywhere in our state could generate the next great idea that would make a difference,” Hakes said.
The next task force meeting is in September in Milwaukee, and there they’ll learn more about “Question, Persuade and Refer” training and review an updated report about suicide in Wisconsin.
For a list of suicide prevention resources, click here.