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From Awareness to Action Best Practices in Training for Suicide Prevention: Dr. Paul Quinnett Ep 15

With high profile celebrity suicides dominating the headlines in June, the topic of suicide was on the mind of many. While we still have a ways to go to undo the misperceptions, prejudice and discrimination that surrounds suicide and suicidal intensity, we need move beyond just “raising awareness” in our efforts.

We need to take action.

My recent blog “From Awareness to Action: We All Need to Fight in the War against Suicide” calls for a revolution — a revolution of the heart. One of the key steps in preparing for this fight is to improve suicide alertness and intervention skills. Many evidence-based and evidence-informed trainings for the general population exist both on-line and in-person: QPR, safeTALK, ASIST and Working Minds.

In this podcast, I get the opportunity to interview one of the thought leaders in training development, Dr. Paul Quinnett. In addition to his bio below, Paul has had a huge impact on my journey in suicide prevention. He was one of my first mentors after my brother Carson died, and quickly inspired me to become one of his Master Trainers. Later he was also an essential expert advisor on our Man Therapy project. I always look forward to seeing Paul at our conferences, and sitting down with him to listen to his marvelous stories. I am so grateful he was willing to give his time to share his wisdom with us here.

Best Practices in Training
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In my free booklet: Awareness to Action: 23 Characteristics that Make Trainings Great, I share two prominent themes about best practices in training for resilience, mental health and suicide prevention:

1) Make it stick.
In order for a training to be effective, skills need to be “baked in” to a larger strategy of change. Tragically, in many situations, communities only become interested in suicide prevention training after the tragedy of suicide has struck. In these instances, we must first provide the psychological first aid of what we call “postvention” first — grief and trauma support — before transitioning into prevention efforts. After the postvention period, communities must be brought into the efforts of building a comprehensive and sustained approach to suicide prevention. One-off trainings are unlikely to have a lasting effects if they are not embedded in a top-down and bottom-up commitment to change.

2) Make it come to life.
The second theme of what makes trainings impactful is that they feel like they are “by, about and for” the people being trained. Effective trainings stay true to the fidelity that their researched outcomes are based-upon, and they also allow for cultural responsiveness. When the trainer is highly engaging and from the system that is being trained, chances of the participants buy-in increase. Finally, trainings that include a strong “lived experience” voice — someone who has lived through experiences of suicidal intensity — are more likely to be seen as “realistic.”

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About Dr. Paul Quinnett
Dr. Paul Quinnett is the Founder and CEO of the QPR Institute. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer — the 3 simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. Paul explains, “Just as people trained in CPR help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help.” Today QPR is being used in seven countries, and together an army of global trainers have trained almost 3 million lay people (approximately 25,000 per month) in these life-saving skills.

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Paul is a clinical psychologist and trainer for more than 35 years and has authored seven books, many professional articles and book chapters. He was Director of Training for the Spokane Mental Health APA-approved psychology internship program for more than 20 years and has served on board of the American Association of Suicidology. Heavily involved in the training of mental health professionals, he currently serves as Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He also founded the American Association of Suicidology’s

Paul is also an avid fisherman, and on the day of this recording I caught him up at his place in Idaho engaged in this lifelong hobby. For more information on this and every episode go to

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