Cherokee Health Providers attend Suicide Prevention Training

by Apr 28, 2011Front Page, NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


     Ten people representing Analenisgi, Cherokee Indian Hospital, Healthy Cherokee, Health and Human Services, and the Ernestine Walkingstick Shelter completed QPR Gatekeeper Instructor Training recently.  They were joined by Palmeda Taylor, Ph.D., Behavioral Health Consultant for the Nashville Area Indian Health Service. 

Jesse Ramirez, EBCI Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Program, sits in a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) program on Suicide Prevention. (Photos courtesy of Stephen Colmant, Ph.D.)

     Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) teaches lay and professional persons to recognize and respond positively to someone exhibiting suicide warning signs and behaviors. Trainers are licensed to certify people in QPR for the next three years. Groups can be trained and certified in a one-hour training.    

     Those taking the course in Cherokee included:  Bennett Bridgers, Stephen Colmant, Manuel Hernandez, Tom Hill, Keahana Lambert-Sluder, April Jacobs, Jesse Ramirez, Tom Slagel, Palmeda Taylor, Marvel Welch and Donna Winslow. 

Keahana Lambert-Sluder and Manuel Hernandez attend the training.

     About 30,000 people die by suicide in the U.S. each year. Suicide ranked as the eighth leading cause of death for American Indians/Alaska Natives of all ages and ranked as the second leading cause of death for those from age of 10 to 34.    According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, American Indian/Alaska Native youth have more serious problems with mental health disorders related to suicide, such as anxiety, substance abuse, and depression than any other ethnic group.

     Over the past 14 months, efforts have been made toward the development of a center of excellence for suicide prevention in Cherokee health care facilities. This is a community effort made through Cherokee Indian Hospital partnering with community gatekeepers including the Health and Medical Division, tribal emergency services, and the Cherokee school system. This effort is supported through the Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI).

     Prevention programs work and generally target risk and protective processes. The main strategies that work in suicide prevention include physician education, restricting access to lethal means, gatekeeper education, improving chain of care, media efforts, public education campaigns, screenings, and specialized psychotherapy interventions.
 Gatekeeper training is especially important. A gatekeeper is anyone who has frequent contact with vulnerable populations.  Educating Gatekeepers provides an opportunity to identify at-risk individuals and direct them to appropriate assessment and treatment. Examples of gatekeepers include: clergy, first responders, pharmacists, geriatric caregivers, human resources staff, school staff, and jail staff.

     A goal in the first year of the Suicide Prevention Initiative in Cherokee was to improve the chain of care response regarding suicide prevention. Some of the recent accomplishments have included the establishment of telepsychiatry services and the completion of a Safe Room within Cherokee Indian Hospital emergency department. A current objective is to train health care staff as well as community members on how to respond to suicide risk.

     Expect to see these trainers talking about suicide prevention in your community, school and workplace over the next three years. Please contact Stephen Colmant if you have a specific request for suicide prevention training for your group at 554-6559 or

Colmant works for the Analenisgi program, part of the EBCI Health & Medical Division.