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Counseling for a pair of star-crossed lovers

William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, gave in to suicide long ago, but, as Angela McLean explained, there is hope for everyone out there who might be struggling.

“It touches people,” said McLean, a disability services specialist at the Services for Students with Disabilities Center on campus. “It is a very difficult thing to cope with and handle, and it is essential that we help.”

People certified in QPR — an acronym for Question, Persuade, Refer — are referred to as gatekeepers, and McLean explained that she believes the best gatekeepers are friends and family.

“The person most likely to prevent us from taking our lives is someone we know,” said Paul Quinnett, founder of the QPR system.

McLean decided to pair with the Weber State University Browning Center during this year’s Anti-Depression Week in order to provide for “layperson” training in response to potential suicide victims.

Titled “If Only Romeo and Juliet Had Received Counseling: QPR for Suicide Prevention,” McLean delivered an hour-long training to certify individuals in QPR. McLean said QPR, while not a formal method of counseling or treatment, is a system that can save lives.

“Much like CPR, you can save a life with QPR,” McLean said.

QPR calls people to be involved in the lives of those at risk. The three-step process can be difficult, McLean explained, but it can save a life.

“QPR is intended to give hope,” McLean said.

By working with the Browning Center, McLean intended to get at the human experience through Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

“Since suicide is the essential ending to this story, and it is about teenagers, I believe this is a great pairing,” said Caril Jennings, marketing director of the Browning Center.

McLean said she also thought the play correlated well with the subject.

“Shakespeare gets right at the human experience,” she said. “Emotions of Romeo and Juliet are typical of the human experience.”

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, both of the main characters experience a series of events and a wide range of emotions that are all signs and catalysts of suicidal tendencies, McLean said.

Despite its prevalence, McLean repeated on several occasions that “suicide is the most preventable cause of death.”

According to McLean’s data, 34,000 deaths a year in the United States are due to suicide, ranking it as the 11th leading cause of death in the nation. Her data also showed that one suicide attempt is made every 38 seconds.

McLean said that, while women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to be successful in their attempt. Additionally, the data showed that members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community attempt suicide 2-38 times as often as their heterosexual counterparts. She said this is due to the fact that they are “less likely to tell someone why they are depressed.”

A survey was conducted at WSU in the spring semester of 2010 to see the effects depression has on students. Twenty-three percent of students reported they were so depressed that it was too difficult to function, and 25 percent of students reported that their academic performance suffered due to depression. The percentage of students attempting suicide exceeded the national average of 5 percent by two percentage points, putting the WSU suicide attempt rate at 7 percent.

Betty Gilchrist, custodial supervisor of the Browning Center, said it is numbers like these that motivated her to attend McLean’s training session.

“I work with a lot of different people, so it is helpful to have this information,” Gilchrist said. “You never know when people need help.”

McLean can be contacted to set up QPR training sessions at 801-626-6413 or at [email protected]. The university’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center is located on the second floor of the Student Services Center, Suite 280, and on the second floor of the Davis campus building.

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