I attended the (QPR) Suicide Prevention course, in Gorey recently and enlightened was an understatement. I expected more of a conference room, with seated rows and a projector. These were all in place with a more relaxed and welcoming environment with CEO Ray Cullen at the door to meet you. Ray and his volunteers are behind the organisation ‘Talk to Tom’ based in Gorey. I had heard him speak before of his personal experience with suicide and was inspired.
We were a small group of ten and Ray said we could finish early. I thought to myself, ‘we’ll be taught the basic signs to watch for and sure it’s good to take part’. Ray began with his personal journey, from being an engineer in the early 90’s, to breaking his back because this is where Ray sees the beginning of how he became teaching QPR, meaning Question, Persuade and Refer. When Ray got to the point of feeling that something had to be done after the loss of his nephew by suicide along with the discovering there was a huge gap in mental health services in North Wexford.
He got together with his family and within four months they had set up Talk to Tom in July 2012. Ray travelled to Colorado in the US, to train and qualify in the course QPR, which was created by Paul Quinten. QPR training was introduced in June 2013 and soon ran programmes for Wexford Marine Watch volunteers, RNLI, Garda Siochána, Coastguard members and various sports clubs. When you attend Ray’s training day, you will witness how his expert advice is sought after by any organisastion; in 2015, Ray was invited to Brussels to present the Talk to Tom model.
He explains in-depth of how your surrounding environment and your everyday belief system effects how you see that the world, based on learned behaviour and associations. He reveals some shocking statistics of how 2016 was at its highest in completed suicides. Also that over 500 people die by suicide a year, with 80% being male and 20% are female.
Ray asked us ‘how many we thought attempted suicide a year that end up in hospital’ and our highest guess was 5,000 people. The truth was frightening, to learn that 12,500 people a year with the majority being 80% female and 20% male. He further explains that suicide is the most preventative death and with the use of the right language, approach and learning the signs of someone who is in pain and suffering. We participated in role play with each other and I found it very intense and emotional but extremely beneficiary and illuminating.
You do not just receive a Certificate in QPR, you receive a day of impact talk along with exercises and interaction. I did not expect to learn as much as we did in that one day. Every month they hold QPR classes along with parenting and more programmes to help people in crisis. They are a community based funded orgainisation, you can find them on Facebook and they have a voluntary shop in Gorey, where you can visit any time Monday to Friday or become a QPR Gatekeeper.
By Róisín Williams