An interview with a certified suicide prevention educator

Here’s how to identify the signs of suicidal thinking, and the opportunity for your student organization to host a suicide prevention workshop

Tragedies, such as a death of a student, can hit any college campus. Here at Temple, we have experienced multiple deaths of fellow classmates this semester. One of the deaths from this year brought up the conversation of mental health and suicide.

I had the opportunity to interview a certified suicide prevention educator on how to identify the signs of someone who may be suicidal and the steps we can take to help each other.

Tell me a little about yourself

My name is Denise Bowen and I’m a senior at Temple. I'm majoring in psychology and minoring in adult and organizational development.  I have been volunteering with the Montgomery County Suicide Prevention Taskforce for three years. I became involved when they reached out to us at Temple’s Ambler campus. 

What is the primary purpose of the organization?

The Montgomery Country Suicide Prevention Taskforce is ran out of Montgomery County’s Department of Behavioral Health; there is also a Philadelphia County Suicide Prevention Taskforce. The primary purpose of our county suicide prevention taskforces is to promote education and resources within our prospective counties. The taskforce organizes awareness and educational events, as well as trains suicide prevention educators that then go out and run workshops educating people in the community. They network with other county and community organizations, working together to help prevent suicide and promote awareness and support for individuals in our communities. 

What is your role in the organization?

I am a suicide prevention educator.  I teach QPR (Question Persuade, Refer) Gatekeeper training within my community.  QPR is a protocol utilized in many places around the U.S. It educates individuals about suicide in general, how to recognize signs of suicide, how to speak to someone about it and help them.

When did the organization come to Temple?

I taught this workshop a few semesters ago up at Temple Ambler.  I believe I am the only person to run this training on campus.  I would like to offer it every semester.  Additionally, I think it would be great training for Temple Dorm RAs.  I’m hoping to expand the availability QPR Gatekeeper training at Temple.

What are some warning signs and symptoms of suicidal thinking?

Signs can be subtle or overt.  This is not a comprehensive list, but some examples of covert signs may be when someone you know who is going through a hard time starts to give away their prized possessions, or saying things like, “Well, you won’t have to worry about me much longer.”  An overt sign can be someone bluntly stating that they do not want to live anymore.  It’s important to remember that even a person joking about suicide may be serious, and even if you don’t think a person’s problems are bad enough for them to seriously consider ending their own life, you are not them.  It’s better to ask a person about how they are feeling rather than assume.

What are some resources available on Temple’s campus that can help students who have suicidal thoughts?

* Temple Psychological Services Center:

* Tuttleman Counseling Services:

* Campus Safety:

* Speak to an RA, a professor, advisor, security, speak to a friend―keep telling people until someone takes you seriously and helps you. Contact off campus help too.

* Non-Temple services

* Philadelphia County Crisis Intervention Line: 1-215-686-4420,

* American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

* Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative:

* 1-800-273-8255- National Suicide Prevention lifeline

* Montgomery County Suicide Prevention Taskforce:  

What are some/one major misconception(s)/myth(s) about mental health/suicide that you would like to clear up?

Asking someone if they are considering ending their life will not increase their chances of making an attempt.  Evidence suggests the opposite. Talking about it opens up the possibility for help whereas silence can be detrimental.

Don’t say “You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you?”  

If a person is already feeling terrible enough that they want to end their life, telling them they are stupid for feeling that way is not helpful.  Just ask, “Are you thinking of ending your life?  I care, and I want you to survive this and get back to a happy life.  Will you let me help you?”

What is one thing you’d like students/anyone to know if they ever have suicidal thoughts? 

Sometimes even the most awesome people lose sight of hope.  You’re not alone.  You’re not beyond help.  I promise.  Contact any suicide prevention line and you will meet someone who cares so much about you that they are waiting for your call right now.  Don’t suffer in silence.  And if talking feels too hard, there is even a crisis textline:

Text 741741,

Is there anything you’d like to add that you think would be beneficial for TU students to know?

Any student group can host a QPR Gatekeeper training.  I don’t charge a fee and I try to keep the materials cost at zero dollars . If you are interested, you can contact me, Denise Bowen, at [email protected]

I urge you to take the initiative to make our lives and that of others better and reach out to someone even when you want to give up. Someone is always willing to listen, support and help you. You never have to feel alone.

Temple University