Professors typically avoid canceling class when they can, though sometimes it can’t be helped.
But thanks to the Don’t Cancel Your Class program, students can still receive meaningful education during a class session the teacher cannot make.
Don’t Cancel Your Class is a program through the Counseling and Testing Center (CTC), which allows a faculty member to schedule a Vandal Health educator to give a one-hour presentation on suicide prevention during a class session they cannot make due to scheduling conflict.
“Suicide is an issue nationwide,” said Vandal Health Program Coordinator Emily Johnson. “Idaho usually ranks in the top five or six for deaths by suicide nationally. Within the 15 to 23-24 age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death, so it’s something we should be talking more about.”
Johnson said Don’t Cancel Your Class started in its current form in spring 2015, with help from a campus suicide prevention grant. The presentations given are called QPR, which stands for question, persuade and refer. It is a nationwide, evidence-based program, and there are three people at the University of Idaho qualified to present it. Johnson said they begin by giving some statistics and talking about warning signs.
“We move into ‘Q.’ How do you question them and say ‘I’m worried about you, and this is why.’” Johnson said. “The ‘P.’ Suicide is not the only option. You can survive. And then ‘R’ is resources.”
She said the best resources on campus are the CTC and the Student Health Clinic. Students can also call the national suicide prevention lifeline. The national suicide prevention text lifeline is available by texting “Start” to 741741.
Licensed psychologist Sharon Fritz of the CTC gave the QPR presentation many times in recent years. She said students have been receptive to the message and faculty have shown interest.
“When faculty use the program once, they are more likely to use it again,” Fritz said. “It’s a good way for faculty to get some information to students about a topic that’s important to our community.”
Ideally, presentations are scheduled at least one week in advance, Fritz said, but it does not always work out that way.
“A faculty member could call at 7 a.m. and say ‘I have a 10:30 a.m. class. Can you go in?’ And we try to do everything we can to make that happen, and so far we’ve been successful,” Fritz said.
In the event that none of the QPR qualified presenters are available for a Don’t Cancel Your Class session, Johnson said other presentations could be given on topics such as healthy sleeping, healthy eating or alcohol safety.
Fritz said she has received great feedback from students and faculty members about the program.
“This is great opportunity to help our community deal with issues that our students are dealing with,” Fritz said. “We know nationwide that more students share having thought of suicide. More students are making attempts and more students are dying by suicide. This is a chance for us to do a good thing for our community.”
Jack Olson can be reached at email@example.com