Bipartisan task force working to prevent suicide in Wisconsin

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention met in Eau Claire on August 12 at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

The 15 member bipartisan task force, led by Republican State Rep. Joan Ballweg and Democratic State Rep. Steve Doyle, has been traveling across the state since April for monthly meetings in areas considered at high risk for suicide.

“Suicide prevention is not a republican or democratic concern this is a bipartisan issue and we have been working really closely together across the aisle at these different hearings to seriously address this issue in Wisconsin with the hope that we can bring forward some legislation supported by both parties in this fall session and actually do something concrete to help people who are in crisis right now,” says Doyle.

The meeting at focused on mental health resources for law enforcement, first responders and veterans.

“The key is to get veterans and law enforcement to talk about it,” says Republican State Rep. Jesse James who is the former police chief of Altoona. “They have built up a wall and we don’t want to pretend that we are weak in any way shape or form.”

People were invited to share ideas that have been helpful in promoting mental health at their own workplaces.

Erin Dunahay of the Jackson Correctional Institute is trained in QPR which stands for “Question, Persuade and Refer.” The program is used among officers at the institute to recognize suicidal comments and behavior among colleagues.

“We have high stress. The stuff we see every day is not stuff you see every day,” Dunahay says of her field.

Dunahay says QPR has helped create a more open work environment and allows her to connect colleagues in need with resources.

“We can get you in our Employee Assistance Program, get you some counseling, we can contact a loved one or we can contact a doctor,” Dunahay says. She says it is important to share the impact QPR has had on her workplace with the task force because QPR may be helpful for other people out there.

The task force will meet in Milwaukee in September for its final meeting and will feature QPR training.

The task force will also issue a report in September compiling what has been learned at the meetings and will include policy recommendations.
September is also National Suicide Prevention Month.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line at 741741.