An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working to prevent suicide in Idaho; Requiring proof of residency or work for COVID-19 vaccination

Training 25,000 Idahoans to help prevent suicide

Suicide is a critical public health issue in Idaho. It brings tragic loss to families, friends, schools, and entire communities across the state each year. In 2018, Idaho had the 5th highest suicide rate in the U.S. There were nearly 24 suicides per 100,000 Idahoans. Despite this dark statistic, we can progress toward a brighter future because suicide is preventable.

Everyone in Idaho has an important role to play in changing these statistics. We, at the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), are working toward a future where there are zero suicides in Idaho.

In our work toward this goal, one of our DHW strategic objectives is to reduce Idaho’s suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025. Part of this goal includes helping to deliver suicide awareness and prevention training, alongside our partners, to 25,000 Idahoans between 2018 and June 30, 2021. And we are nearly there. As of Feb. 11, we are 91 percent of the way to this goal; 22,763 Idahoans have participated in the training programs offered through our partnerships.

QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Gatekeeper Training

Suicide prevention training can help anyone to understand and notice the risk factors and warning signs of someone in distress and at risk of attempting suicide. Suicide prevention training can teach skills in how to be a safe connection for at-risk individuals, how to talk to people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and help build and identify protective factors.

One of the most common suicide prevention training programs delivered by DHW and our partners is QPR Gatekeeper Training. A gatekeeper is someone in a position to recognize when a person is in crisis as well as the warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide. Gatekeepers can be anyone, including parents and grandparents, friends, neighbors, teachers, other school staff, ministers, doctors, nurses, work supervisors, coaches, foremen, police officers and other first responders, advisors, caseworkers, community center staff, and many others who are strategically positioned to recognize someone who is at risk of suicide.

The training teaches people three simple steps that anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide: Question, Persuade, and Refer. The training teaches gatekeepers to:

  • Recognize signs that someone may have thoughts of suicide
  • Safely ask someone exhibiting signs if s/he is having thoughts of suicide
  • Effectively refer an individual considering suicide to qualified help

Soon, all 2,972 of our DHW staff members will have the opportunity to participate in QPR Gatekeeper Training. With this effort, and continued efforts with our partners, we expect to reach our target of 25,000 Idahoans trained in suicide prevention very soon.

One of our key partners in this work is Andra Smith Hansen, a faculty member at BYU-Idaho in the communications department, VOICE advocacy director, and QPR and ASIST certified trainer. Andra has trained more than 1,300 people in suicide prevention since January 2020 and will continue to work with DHW to train our staff.

Suicide prevention training has become a passion of Andra’s, and she sends follow-up surveys to participants to ask whether the training has been effective. Of the responses she has received, 99 percent have said they would recommend the training to other people, and many have shared powerful personal stories about their experiences with people who were considering suicide. Andra has shared with us that she is humbled by the resiliency and trust of these gatekeepers and is extremely grateful for their dedication to helping their loved ones through dark times.

The powerful insights shared by gatekeepers show the value of stepping up to be a source of support for friends, family, and colleagues in distress. One trainee who had a colleague experiencing thoughts of suicide shared after QPR training that they felt they learned skills to help them be more prepared for next time: “This training was really helpful in providing actions and steps to take with real examples so I am confident if we get there again I can be more skillful in getting them, or anyone, through it until they can get help.”

Another trainee shared that they had had personal experience with thoughts of suicide, and almost completed suicide, but a friend was able to stop them. “It only takes one person to show you they care to prevent it,” they shared. “It would have been so great to have the knowledge of this training when I was going through this suicidal time.”

One trainee, who had lost a parent to suicide at a young age, shared their experience of seeing how subtle the signs of suicidal thoughts can be, and said that “The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the warning signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior, and try to use this knowledge to help someone else.”

Training efforts by DHW and partners

In addition to QPR Gatekeeper Training, there are many programs, groups, and efforts that are helping to keep Idahoans safe. These include ASIST, safeTALK, Sources of Strength, LivingWorks START, and Mental Health First Aid. DHW helps by managing partnerships and grants for organizations including the seven public health districts, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, The Idaho Lives Project Sources of Strength training program, St. Luke’s Health System, Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, Lewis-Clark State College, and many others.

I would like to thank our community partners who have been actively engaged across the state and have helped more than 22,000 Idahoans (and counting) to become gatekeepers and sources of support. And, I would like to thank every one of those Idahoans who took the time to participate in training and prepare themselves to be that one person who can make the positive difference to a person contemplating suicide. Together, we can strengthen the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans.

You can follow DHW’s work toward our mission and read more about our Strategic Plan on our website.

Become a Gatekeeper

If you would like to learn how to identify and respond to the warning signs of people in crisis by taking the QPR Gatekeeper Training for suicide training, please visit the Idaho Lives Project website or the QPR Online Gatekeeper Training website to register. The online class takes approximately two hours to complete.

You can also find a number of suicide prevention resources on DHW’s Suicide Prevention Webpage. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline  and online chat service is available at 208-398-4357 or 800-273-8255 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. Text support is available Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to midnight.

Idaho requiring proof of residency or work in Idaho for vaccinations

A few days ago, DHW issued a press release announcing that because the supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho is limited, the state is now requiring that those seeking COVID-19 vaccines in the state should either live or work in Idaho.

Regardless of citizenship or immigration status, all eligible people with a primary residence or who work in Idaho should get vaccinated when it is their turn.

People who register for vaccines with any vaccine provider in Idaho will be asked to provide one of the following:

  • A driver’s license or work or school ID
  • A letter with the person’s name and address 
  • A utility bill with the person’s name
  • A voucher from an employer, faith-based institution, healthcare provider, school, or other registered organization or agency that the person lives or works in Idaho

Some vaccine providers may scan photo identification to add to a person’s confidential medical record as part of their existing process, but copies of letters, utility bills, or vouchers will not be copied or kept.

Those individuals who are homeless in Idaho will be eligible for vaccine in group 2.3. This announcement does not change their ability to get vaccinated when group 2.3 is eligible.

Have a safe and healthy weekend, and remember to: Wear your mask, keep six feet of distance between yourself and others, wash your hands often, cover your coughs and sneezes, and get your vaccine when it’s your turn!

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