Taboo no more — BCIT starts a conversation about suicide

Mental health, and specifically suicide, can be difficult to talk about. BCIT counsellor, Judy Bushnell, hopes to change that.

“I think there is a myth that only experts can prevent suicide,” she says. “The really good news is that that is not the case. If people know what to do, they are able to respond very effectively. They can even save a life.”

Judy, who works with BCIT Counselling and Student Development, leads QPR training at BCIT – and she’s got a couple of sessions coming up.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-28-53-amQPR – Question. Persuade. Refer. – is a 90 minute training session that teaches those three steps to help prevent suicide.

“QPR is a program that trains people to recognize a person who might be in a suicide crisis and how to respond effectively,” says Judy.  It’s an important issue for our community to talk about.

Judy says she knew we needed something like the QPR course when she read the results of a survey done by the American College Health Association. It asked students whether they’d considered suicide in the past twelve months.

“13 per cent [of the Canadian students] said they had seriously considered suicide in last 12 months,” explains Judy. “So it’s probable that in every set or classroom at BCIT, possibly 1 or 2 students might be at risk in a school year. We can all do something about that and we don’t have to let them fall through the cracks. Anyone of us if we know what to do can reach out and respond.”

Her main message is this: everyone at BCIT has a role in supporting the well-being and success of our students. “Suicide,” she says, “is everybody’s business.”

She adds that the training helps dispel fears around this issue, that it makes it easier to talk to people. Specifically, it dispels the myth that talking to someone about suicide might push them over the edge.

“People get frightened about doing the wrong thing,” she acknowledges. “A lot of the myths about suicide get in the way of responding appropriately.”

Judy says this is a good news story.

“There’s a lot of good news, actually. Often people think that it’s going be really difficult or they are going to need to talk someone out of suicide. The truth is, for anyone who is suicidal, there is a lot of ambivalence. There is definitely a part of them that wants to live. Often it doesn’t take a lot of convincing.  Even just to be able to say hey I care about you and I see you are in pain and let’s get you some help. Let me help you get help. There is so much potential there. Anyone could be really empowered to reach out and be able to help people and many lives can be saved.”

This workshop is open to all BCIT students, staff, faculty and administrators. Judy hopes people from across the Institute register, as “it could be appropriate for anybody.”
A couple of workshops have been announced, with more to come throughout the year. A maximum of 15 people can register, so please sign up today.

October 5, 2016  2:30 – 4:00 pm

November 2, 2016  2:30 – 4:00 pm

Students can register by emailing Judy directly at

The QPR sessions are offered by Counselling & Student Development in partnership with the BCIT Student Association.

In addition to sessions lead by Judy, the Student Association has also planned sessions to coincide with Suicide Prevention Week (January 31-Feb 2). Any student, staff or faculty member is welcome to join those sessions as well. The dates will be posted and available for sign-ups on this page in the coming weeks. 


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