The holidays should be a happy time of friends, families and togetherness, but for many the holidays can be deeply depressing, so much so that some contemplate suicide.

Missoula County Suicide Prevention Coordinator Heidi Kendall has been named to the Office of Public Instruction’s Prevention and Response Rulemaking Committee Members.

Kendall said she is an educator, which makes her an ideal member of Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen’s committee.

“I teach a class called QPR, which stand for Question, Persuade, Refer,” said Kendall. “The ‘Q’ for question is that it’s good to ask directly is someone is considering suicide. It’s OK to come right out and ask because it gives people an opportunity to talk about what’s happening to them. Persuade means trying to convince them to get help, that you care about them and want them to live. Then, the ‘R’ is for referring them to the right level of care, whether it’s the emergency room or to a counselor. These are the basic principles.

Kendall said she does teach the QPR classes to administrators at all the public schools, from high school down to the elementary grades.

“We have had suicides as young as 11 years-old,” she said. “We need to be able to identify signs of suicide even in the very young.”

Kendall said there have been 31 suicides in Missoula since January 1,2017.

“That’s 31 too many, of course,” she said. “Our evidence shows that talking to people  and getting them these skills, and making sure they know about the suicide prevention lifeline and the text line will help. It may take some time, but we know that these resources will help people.”

Project Tomorrow Montana is an initiative of the United Way. The suicide lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255 and it is answered 24/7. For veterans, press ‘1’ and you will be directed to the veterans call center. There is also a textline at  MT to 741741.