National Suicide Prevention Week: Dr. Kathy Robinson Brings Expertise in Suicidology to Piedmont University
For nearly a decade, Dr. Kathy Robinson has studied suicidology and worked as a suicidologist consultant.
Now, she aims to pass her knowledge on to Piedmont University students, preparing them to identify suicide warning signs — and potentially save lives.
“One of the myths about suicide is that we shouldn’t talk about it, that if we talk about it, we increase the likelihood of someone killing themselves,” Robinson said.
“That just isn’t true. People who are thinking about killing themselves want to talk to other people; they need to talk to someone. The more we’re able to talk about suicide, the more lives we will be able to save.”
Robinson is now coordinator of Piedmont’s new fully online Master of Arts in Professional Counseling-Clinical Mental Health Concentration, but in 2010, she was a doctoral student studying counselor education and supervision at Auburn University. For her dissertation, she chose to research the prevalence of a then-new phenomenon called cyberbullying.
“I was interested in school counselors’ perceptions of cyberbullying, and whether or not it was something they were seeing in their day-to-day work,” she said.
“During the course of that research, I learned that, yes, it was definitely in the schools, but also around that time, there had been a string of student suicides around the country. These suicides were well covered by the news media, and in each case, there was a connection between social media, cyberbullying, and suicide. I became very interested in those connections.”
Robinson’s interest soon turned into inspiration.
“It evoked in me a sense of wanting to help. I wanted to be the boots on the ground, to get the word out that there are resources to help those considering suicide,” she said.
Robinson went on to complete QPR training with the QPR institute, and then to become a master trainer. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer. Trainees learn how to recognize the warning signs of suicide, ask effective questions, and refer potentially suicidal individuals to resources.
In the years since, Robinson has worked as a suicidologist consultant, conducting QPR training at schools, colleges and universities, churches, medical facilities, and private businesses. She’s also given numerous presentations on the topic of suicide prevention, and in her previous position with another university, she created an annual awareness event to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week.
“We opened the door and made students feel like they could reach out for help,” she said.
She hopes to do similar work at Piedmont, including offering an elective in suicidology as part of the master’s degree in professional counseling, which launches in January.
“In many programs, students receive very little training in suicide prevention,” Robinson said.
“The course I’m developing for Piedmont will be much more rigorous, providing multiple trainings and discussion opportunities to help students understand the causes and how to prevent suicide.”
Robinson also plans to offer QPR Gatekeeper Trainings for students and employees in spring 2022.
For now, Robinson welcomes anyone who is interested in learning more about suicide and suicide prevention to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Suicide Prevention Week is also a great time for anyone interested in suicide prevention to complete online, COVID-safe QPR gatekeeper training.
“When it comes to suicide prevention, we can all do something to make a difference,” she said.
Robinson will be hosting online information sessions for those interested in the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling on Sept. 9 and 23 from 5 to 6 p.m. Information on how to participate is available here: Virtual Graduate School FAQ Session | Piedmont University.