QPR, resources can help prevent suicide

Sheldon A. Schwartz
To download the SPINGO card and learn more about the Suicide Prevention Challenge, visit www.healthyfranklincounty.org/ and search SPINGO. More information also is available from Nicole Purdy at npurdy@wellspan.org

(Editor's note: Sheldon A. Schwartz of Greencastle is chair of the Franklin/Fulton County Mental Health, Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities and Early Intervention Advisory Board.)

“I want to die. My life is worth nothing. I am a burden on others and do not deserve to live. I can’t live this way. Life is not worth living. No one cares if I live or die. I do not like myself.”

OK, what do you do if someone you love or care for or a co-worker or a friend or an acquaintance, or even a stranger, says something like that?

Forty-five thousand times a year someone dies from suicide in the United States. Here in Franklin County we experience an average of about 20 deaths from suicide every year. This year there has been fewer deaths in Franklin County from suicide. So far, we have experienced a 16.7% decrease when compared to this time last year. Is it the pandemic or other factors that we have to thank? It is anybody’s guess as how to predict what our rate will look like for 2020 given the unprecedented time we are living in.

Aside from statistics, preventing suicide is everyone’s responsibility. Like they say, “If you see something, do something.”

September is National Suicide Prevention Month to highlight suicide as a major and increasing public health concern and what can be done to head it off.

About 35 years ago my best friend had a car accident and suffered a spinal injury leaving him with paraplegia. Yes, I knew about the high incidence of suicides among people with these types of injuries and was determined to not let it happen to him. We traveled around the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area in my little sports car with his wheelchair poking behind our seats. It didn’t matter where we went together, farmers market, Fulton Fish Market, the Corner Pub or the hardware store, he seemed well adjusted and I thought all was OK ... that is, until I got the call that he had killed himself.

Seems like he conned his son into getting him a gun so he could protect his wife and home and the son complied unbeknownst to his wife or anyone else.

She was in the kitchen and heard the "pop" and that was it.

It is not easy to talk about suicide, but we all know that it happens every day and see, hear and read about it. One more Kennedy lost. Consider this family, with all their resources and still it happened. Many of us have lost family, loved ones or friends because of suicide and the pain and anxiety of “why didn’t I do more” plagues us. We wonder if we missed the signs and could have done something ... anything that would have prevented it.

“Suicide is one of the most unfathomable issues of our time.” — Anonymous

Clinical care plays a significant role in the prevention, identification and treatment of suicide risk. And yet, the care provided is often fragmented, allowing people at risk for suicide to “fall through the cracks,” failing to receive needed care. The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Franklin County is organized to raise awareness of the need for and existence of a safety net for those who fall through the cracks. Contact Healthy Franklin County at 717-267-4877.

There is the Zero Suicide initiative for a quality improvement and safety framework to suicide care throughout the health system. The initiative promotes the adoption of “zero suicides” as an organizing goal for health care systems and seeks to transform suicide care through changes in leadership, policies, practices and outcome measurement. Contact the Mental Health Association of Franklin and Fulton Counties at 717-264-4301.


QPR is another suicide prevention initiative.

Question — Do not be fearful of asking someone you are concerned about the question “Are you thinking about suicide?" Asking the question does not contribute to the person's thoughts or committing the act.

Persuade — Convince the person that they do need help and it is available.

Refer — This is the warm handoff that segues the individual seamlessly into a professional setting.

Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver 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. To schedule an in-person QPR training for a group, call Bethany Peake, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Franklin and Fulton Counties, at 717-264-4301, Ext. 222.

 Additional resources 

Crisis Text Line

Connect with a real-life crisis counselor for free 24/7

Text HOME to 741741

- Suicide Prevention Coalition of Franklin County

Staffed by trained certified peer specialists and call specialists who have been there

5 to 10 p.m., 365 days a year

717-264-2916 or 1-800-593-8351


- Keystone Health Crisis Intervention Program

Funded by Franklin/Fulton County Mental Health, Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities and Early Intervention

717-264-2555 or 866-918-2555


- Prevent Suicide PA

Crisis Line 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Individually and collectively we have a responsibility for the health and well-being of our friends and loved ones. Being aware of the signs and the resources available will go a long way in reducing suicides, but more importantly it will help ameliorate some of the real and/or imagined life stresses that impact us every day.

Community activities 

Franklin county commissioners have declared September as Suicide Prevention Month and local activities include:

- Throughout September

Play SPINGO: The Suicide Prevention Challenge

Learn about suicide prevention education, strategies and resources available in Franklin County by playing SPINGO. For a SPINGO card and information about the challenge, search SPINGO at:


- Throughout September

Purple lights on display in downtown Greencastle and Waynesboro

Purple lights and ribbons on display in downtown Chambersburg

- Tuesday, Sept. 15

QPR Suicide Prevention Training

Location: Virtual

Time: 1 to 4 p.m.



- Wednesday, Sept.16

A Summer Read – Option B Book Discussion

A limited number of books are available to check out through Chambersburg Hospital Library and the Franklin County Library System.

Location: Virtual WellSpan Health Franklin County/Chambersburg

Time: noon to 1 p.m.

Register by Sept. 11 at:


- Tuesday, Sept. 22

QPR Suicide Prevention Training

Mental Health Association of Franklin and Fulton Counties

Location: Virtual

Time: 2 p.m.

Register: Call 717-264-4301 or email:


- Tuesday, Sept. 22

Youth Suicide Awareness Virtual Conference

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds

Learn how to help those at risk

Time: 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Register: Search "youth suicide" at:


-  Wednesday, Sept. 23

A Summer Read – Option B Book Discussion

A limited number of books are available to check out through Chambersburg Hospital Library and the Franklin County Library System

Location: Virtual WellSpan Health Franklin County/Chambersburg

Time: 6 to 7:30 p.m.



- Tuesday, Sept. 29

Virtual Suicide Prevention Forum (Healthy Adams County)

Adams County Statistics

Talk Saves Lives American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Training

Panel Discussion, Resources, Q&A

Location: Virtual

Time: noon to 2 p.m.

Register: By Sept. 18 by calling 717-337-4137 or via email at: