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Suicide prevention: Could you step up and save a life?

Left to right: Kesha Marson, Kris Miner and Gary Campbell.

A new workshop/forum from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the River Falls Public Library should have wide appeal.

The topic is life, and how to assist those on the brink of giving up.

"The May 21 presentation is designed for all community members -- Suicide does not discriminate," says Kesha Marson, St. Croix County Behavioral Health social worker and cofounder of that county's Suicide Prevention Task Force.

Marson said the second half of the workshop will focus on the nationally recognized QPR, an education program that parallels CPR medical emergencies.

QPR (Question/Persuade/Refer), she said, teaches three simple techniques.

"Just like the skills of CPR, QPR skills allow everyday citizens to utilize learned skills to recognize signs of suicide and to keep a person alive through supportive listening until the person is able to get professional help," said Marson, who responds with area law enforcement to suicide calls. "The more people trained in QPR, the safer our communities become."

Marson said QPR "Gatekeeper" training should be as common as CPR training.

"We all come in contact with human beings all day long," she said. "Therefore teachers, funeral directors, bus drivers, coaches, parents, hospital staff, law enforcement, employers, etc., need to be trained."

Kris Miner, St. Croix County Restorative Justice Program director, said the first 30 minutes of the workshop will be informational -- with comments on the experiences of suicide survivors and how to help others interact comfortably with these survivors.

Miner, with an extensive background in grief counseling, said the importance of the May 21 River Falls Suicide Prevention workshop can't be understated.

One reason, she explained, is that suicide isn't about one person.

"I do believe that suicide doesn't end the pain, it transfers it to others," she said. "People who consider suicide are often feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless.

"If we can help each other with hope, connection and belonging, I believe we can reduce or reverse the trend."

Marson said the nonprofit St. Croix County's Suicide Prevention Task Force, founded just last February, has a fundamental agenda.

"Our goals are simple, including reducing stigma related to suicide and mental illness," she said. "We want to create awareness about suicide and other mental-health needs in an effort to save lives.

Meyer Middle School counselor Gary Campbell says the River Falls School District also has good reason to sponsor the May 21 Suicide Prevention workshop.

"This year alone at the middle school, Rocky Branch and the high school, we have had to help six students cope with a parent suicide," Campbell said.

"In the past three or four years, we have seen several suicide deaths in the community. This is a real concern that we want to help address."

The Suicide Prevention workshop is free. It will be held in the library's lower level community room.

For the complete story, please see the May 16 print edition of the River Falls Journal.