Help Your Friends Help Themselves: The QPR Method


Even with all of the stigma-busting events, mental health is still a big deal in the United States. It can be hard to talk to your friends and family members about their mental health, but to save a life is worth the hassle. It can be hard to start the conversation but can be even harder to continue it–especially if it gets to a point when your friends or family members express concerning thoughts or feelings. There’s one guideline for how to voice these concerns, and it’s called the QPR method. What does QPR stand for? How can I use it? What sort of resources are available? All this and more.

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What is QPR?

QPR is a suicide prevention strategy, used primarily in schools and universities. The letters stand for “question, persuade, and refer.” While this guideline isn’t intended for use on its own, it offers a useful framework for those who have trouble with the tough conversations around mental health and, more specifically, suicide.

How do I “Question” My Friends and Close Family Members?

If you talk to a friend or family member and they either directly say that they intend to harm themselves or others, get professional help immediately. If they exhibit any other, less direct symptoms of suicidal tendencies, like giving away close possessions, talking about how worthless they feel, or saying things that feel out of character, ask them why they are having these feelings. Why do you think that way? What is making you feel this way? Is there anything I can do to help? These and similar questions are all great to ask your friend that you feel worried about.

What Can I “Persuade” Them to Do?

If they indicate they want to hurt themselves, persuade them to seek outside help. Help them set up appointments, send them recommendations of counselors, and talk them through why they should get help. While you can’t get any support for them, encourage them to seek help. Be their cheerleader and encourage them to keep going during this tough time, even when all seems lost. Do what you can to keep them here with you. Remind them of why they’re important to you, essential to your friends, and essential to their family.

Who Can I “Refer” Them To?

As mentioned above, you can refer them to outside, professional help–people like counseling centers, psychologists, therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists. Your job is not to cure them, work them through all of their problems, and then send them out into the world as a perfect human being. While you have an outstanding job as a concerned friend or family member, it’s not your job to “save” them. It’s also frowned upon to schedule and then drag them to appointments. You should do everything you can to help them, but it’s not your job to save them entirely.

What Do I Do in An Emergency?

While these are all great strategies to use in a non-emergency situation, emergencies are entirely different. If someone is actively trying to harm themselves or others, call 911 immediately. Your safety and the safety of others, including your friend in distress, should take precedence over the QPR method.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Being a resource for someone else experiencing a mental health crisis can be a drain on your mental health. Even when working to help a friend, if you need help, reach out for it. It can be stressful to help your friends through these rough spots, and there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help during a tough time.

Have questions about this process? Want to learn more? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!


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