QPR: Police Suicide Prevention

Article excerpt

A 5-year veteran uniformed police officer, in acute distress about his wife divorcing him, hints to his shift supervisor, "Forget that transfer I asked for; I've decided to work things out permanently."

The shift supervisor takes him aside and asks, "What's the matter? Is something going on in your personal life?"

After this inquiry, the officer announces his wife is leaving him, describes his sense of devastation, and laments his inability to reverse her decision. The supervisor says, "I'm worried about you and concerned for your safety. Have you had any thoughts about killing yourself?"

The officer nods.

"Then I want you to see a professional immediately - strictly confidential. I'll make the arrangements. Chaplain or psychologist?"

"Psychologist," the officer replies, accepting help. Then he asks, "Do I have to give up my badge and gun?"

"No," replies the supervisor. "But for your safety you have to promise me you will not kill yourself until you've gotten some help. Are you willing to do that?"

"O.K.," the officer sighs. "O.K. O.K. How soon can I see the psychologist?"

"Today. I will take you myself," replies the supervisor.

With only an hour of training, the supervisor in this abbreviated interaction applied a new, direct suicide intervention methodology. Called QPR, the intervention consists of three bold steps: questioning the meaning of possible suicidal communications, persuading the person in crisis to accept help, and referring the person to the appropriate resource.

BACKGROUND

The supervisor of this officer did all of the right things at the right time. The officer received the necessary professional help immediately, resulting in a positive outcome.

Typical of most suicidal crises, the nature of this man's troubles took a long time to develop, but appeared brief, transient, and remedial during the crisis itself. A timely and caring confrontation about his hinted plan to commit suicide ("I've decided to work things out permanently"), together with an immediate referral, which included an agreement not to take his own life, enabled this officer to receive the counseling necessary to prevent a suicide attempt. This officer weathered his emotional storm and returned to duty in a few days with his pride and self-esteem intact.

Three things happened to help avert a possible tragedy, not only for the officer and his family but for the department, as well. First, the supervisor used training received in suicide prevention. …