During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, the administration, faculty and staff of the Spalding University School of Nursing unanimously took a meaningful step toward equipping themselves to address the most serious of mental health crises.
Spalding Associate Professor Dr. Erica Lemberger, who helped organize the initiative among her colleagues, said she thinks Spalding is likely the first school of nursing in the state to have 100 percent of faculty, staff, administration and students trained in QPR. Spalding nursing students have for years already been receiving training to become QPR gatekeepers as part of their mental health curriculum.
Lemberger is the Co-Chair of the Behavioral Health Committee of the Louisville Health Advisory Board, which has a goal of increasing education in the public about suicide prevention, particularly during this time of stress, trauma and anxiety caused by the pandemic. Nurses working on the front lines have been especially vulnerable.
Lemberger decided the first step she should personally take would be to spread the word within her own professional community at Spalding. She proposed to her colleagues a goal of 100 percent QPR training among themselves in the School of Nursing.
“I gave this proposal so that we could be that light to recognize those individuals who are at risk for suicide,” Lemberger said. “It could be your parent, your sibling, your coworker, your student, you neighbor. It could be anyone. As nurses, because we have increased clinical demands and a difficult work environment and workforce stress, nursing and nurses’ mental health are all related. I thought, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s get 100 percent. Let’s be all in.'”
Every School of Nursing employee took part in the free virtual QPR training offered by the Louisville chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which is a partner of the Louisville Health Advisory Board.
“Spalding University faculty members are dedicated to the mental health improvement of the community, and one of the steps in the process is being prepared to support and address mental health issues,” said Dr. Lana Watson, Chair of the School of Nursing. “Completing this training provides faculty the tools needed to save a life of someone considering suicide. The training is open to those interested, and we encourage anyone who would like to complete the training to contact NAMI to complete this free training!”
Lemberger, who is a certified QPR instructor, said she hopes other academic and support departments and student organizations on campus will follow the School of Nursing’s example and work to get all their members trained in QPR. She encourages any department to contact her or visit the NAMI Louisville website. Counseling and Psychology Services Director Dr. Allison From-Tapp has also offered training to the campus community.
“You can be the person to save a life; that’s a really big deal,” Lemberger said. “You don’t have to have a nursing degree to know how to save a life; anyone can save a life. You just have to be able to identify the risk factors, know how to ask the questions, know how to persuade someone to get help and know who to refer someone to get help.”