Why we should all be gatekeepers, By Rachel Papke

It is critical we thoughtfully put words together in a way to inspire change and motivate individuals to take action. The first step is to educate on the meaning of a word if it is not widely understood or recognized. Sometimes we work so closely with our words we forget that to those outside of our work the words are jargon.


Today’s word is gatekeeper. What is a gatekeeper? Is this someone who guards a gate? Yes, that is one definition. But that is not what is meant by gatekeeper in suicide prevention. Gatekeeper is a very important word for you to understand. Comprehension of this word could help you save a life.

A gatekeeper in suicide prevention is a person who is actively on the lookout for individuals showing the warning signs of suicide. This gatekeeper is a person who can identify an at-risk person and take immediate action to help that person. Understanding that you’re only responsible for what you know at the time. But, with 4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide giving clear warning signs and most teens who attempt to die by suicide communicating their distress or plans to at least one other person, you can see how incredibly important it is to recognize the signs and act on them.


Young adults learn best from their peers and are more likely to talk to their peers when a problem arises.  Therefore, most traditional mental health outreach, in which clinicians or teachers give information to students, is not always the most appropriate method for reaching young adults. We know that young adults are more likely to listen to and retain information provided by their peers, so the imperative message of suicide prevention must come from peers (with support from professionals for safety).

Know the warning signs of suicide

College students. College is an exciting time that opens many doors to the present and future. However, you can sometimes get so lost in the frenzy of friends, attending class, studying for exams, meeting deadlines, and going out that you forget to take the time to check in on one another. Be aware of your friends and classmates’ behaviors and emotions. If you have concerns, speak up and show your concern. Be vigilant. Be persistent.

Here at the Jordan Porco Foundation we’ve created our Nine out of Ten gatekeeper suicide prevention program for college students, based on the statistic that one out of ten college students contemplates suicide. It’s very important to know the warning signs and take action to help someone.

School staff. You are also on the front line and therefore should take action to know the warning signs of suicide to become gatekeepers.

Parents, caregivers. You are your child’s gatekeeper at so many levels. You are constantly on the lookout in an ongoing effort to keep your child safe, healthy, and happy. Learn the warning signs of suicide and create a comfortable, non-judgmental space to have honest conversations about mental health and suicide.

Anyone. That’s right, anyone can be a gatekeeper to prevent suicide. Please take action today to learn the warning signs of suicide—be vigilant to identify and respond when a person needs help.

Question. Persuade. Refer

In addition to knowing the suicide warning signs, you can complete a formal gatekeeper training called Question. Persuade. Refer (QPR). QPR is the CPR of mental health.

Be a gatekeeper

Suicide rates are at their highest in 30 years. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for persons aged 15-24. We need gatekeepers to help combat these statistics. We need you to tell your friends how they can be gatekeepers. When you become a gatekeeper you’ll be able to #helpsomeone. As we add gatekeepers to our communities we exponentially increase our opportunities to save more lives.

If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “START” to 741-741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.