We've all heard of CPR - emergency help to save a heart that is failing. Now there is QPR - emergency treatment to save a life that is slipping away to suicide. 400 universities across the country are offering this one time class, including the Texas Tech Health Science Center. And for Sharon Kohout, the woman who teaches it there, it's more than a class - It's therapy.
The first thing Kohout said to the class when she began her QPR lesson was, "I lost my daughter Shayne almost 3 years ago, on Mother's Day weekend."
We learned through the course of this hour class that Shayne Kohout was an actress in Atlanta. She had been in several Mandie movies, playing the colorful character of Mrs. Snow. In fact, Shayne had just finished another Mandie movie in April of 2010. She died the following month on May 13.
Sharon describes her daughter as "lively, fun-loving, passionate and beautiful 'til the end of her days."
Before Atlanta, Shayne studied voice at Texas Tech and before that, Shayne was the mascot for the Coronado Mustangs. Even in junior high at Hutch here in Lubbock, she was always center stage, performing in front of the choir with an animated face and a charming voice.
"She was the perfect child," her mother says. "And that may have been part of the problem. She had such high expectations of herself, a super achiever."
At 16, Shayne had a breakdown and was diagnosed with clinical depression. Her family knows now that even during the happiest times, she struggled with depression until she died at age 33.
Kohout says Shayne left behind a stack of journals. It is painfully obvious by reading those that it was a problem for her just to wake up and face the day. But, Sharon says she would put on her happy face and make everyone think she was fine. In that auditorium at the Health Sciences Center, she told the class, "We just lost her before anybody knew what was going on."
Now, Kohout is using her grief as fuel to educate other families about suicide prevention. It is the reason she became certified to teach QPR- which stands for question, persuade, refer.
There are many myths about suicide that she shares with her class:
"Confront a person who is suicidal - it will make them angry and increase the risk."
"Ask if they are thinking about suicide…and it will plant the idea."
"Only a trained expert can prevent a suicide." None of these are true.
Kohout says "If you have a child or anyone with a mental disorder, you manage it like a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease and you learn everything you can and you talk about it. You surround that person with a safety net, a support network of people who understand."
Shayne took an overdose of three different medications. She left two notes. One note was pulled from her journal, written when she was 16.
Kohout says it was written in an adolescent hand. Next to it was another note, much shorter that said, "The pain, the pain. It never goes away."
Kohout says she's blessed with 2 other children, but Mother's Day will always be a difficult holiday because she and Shayne spent their last Mother's Day together in Georgia - and it was perfect.
"She gave me this on our last Mother's Day together," Kohout told me as she opened a big card in her kitchen. It was a singing card. You could hear "A bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck." She was holding back tears. I asked if that was Shayne's voice. It was beautiful. She nodded yes. That was a favorite family song that Sharon's mother used to sing to Shayne when she was a little girl.
Now, it was the last thing Shayne would sing to her mom, in a Mother's Day card she would save forever.
Later, she told me, "I see a lot of pain and it's crushing to me. But I know she's not in pain anymore. The way I cope with the grief is to be her voice in the world. That's what a mom does."
Sharon Kohout is one of many in this area, certified to teach QPR and educate families about suicide prevention.
If you would like to learn more about this training which is provided to individuals or groups, call (806) 392-1886.
Every day this week in our segment HealthWise at 5, we'll hear from local agencies that can provide resources to families concerned about depression. We'll also learn more about QPR, the suicide prevention class that can help prepare you for that kind of emergency.
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