Now more than ever, our society needs to focus on mental health.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, at least 26% of Americans 18 years and older, or about 1 in 4 adults, suffer from at least one mental health disorder.

Issues of mental health are one of the top causes of disability, homelessness and poverty in the US and affect people’s ability to obtain jobs, focus and maintain a stable household.

Due to these statistics, it is crucial for students and adults in the US to become more educated on mental health-related issues.

Denison staff, students and faculty strive to become part of this movement to educate others. During Aug-O training for the incoming class of ‘22 this past year, student Aug-O leaders underwent QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) Gateway Training for Suicide Prevention.

Aug-O is a summer introduction program to help incoming students become more accustomed to college life by guiding them through the class registration process, showing them Denison resources and introducing a support system for all students.

QPR training is a 1 hour educational program designed to teach professional gatekeepers the warning signs of a suicide crisis along with how to respond to one. The QPR trainings are provided by certified instructors; currently, Dr. Kadian Miracle, a staff psychologist at Whisler Center for Student Wellness and Kelsey Jones, the First-Year Care Coordinator, are trained QPR instructors on campus. QPR Instructors can provide trainings to groups so that various individuals can serve as gatekeepers for others.

The training educates gatekeepers on key statistics, risk factors, clues and warning signs around suicide risk. QPR teaches participants about how they can have a conversation with a person who might be exhibiting these signs and how they can help get them connected to treatment and additional resources.
As part of the campus’s effort to support a culture of wellness on campus, these QPR Trainings have been offered to a variety of groups within the campus community, including faculty, administration and student leaders such as CAs (Community Advisors) and Aug-O leaders. Future trainings for students will also be available in the upcoming spring semester.
For Aug-O leaders, this training is particularly relevant as they are individuals who interact frequently with incoming first-year students in their initial experiences on campus. These students are in a position where they might notice another student exhibiting signs of suicide and can be a potential link for getting that student connected to help resources on campus or elsewhere. Since the training for Aug-O leaders is aimed at providing them with the skills and knowledge they would need in their interactions with students, it is necessary to provide this training alongside it.
“The transition to college, while very exciting, can also be distressing and difficult to students,” says Kelsey Jones, the First-Year Care Coordinator. “Being in a new environment, learning to become more independent, making new social connections, adjusting to academics at the college-level — these are all significant stressors that students face coming in to college. And if students are also struggling with ongoing or untreated mental health concerns like depression, the transition can feel especially overwhelming.”
The goal of QPR training is to increase the number of individuals who are trained gatekeepers on campus so Denison administration, students and staff can start educational conversations around suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students and yet because of the stigma that is often present around topics of mental health, it can be difficult to address these concerns openly with others.

“Empowering people with the knowledge and skills to initiate these conversations in a safe setting can help give hope to those who may be struggling in silence,” says Jones.