Vital Cog is a suicide prevention program offered by Intermountain Health for athletic coaches, staff, and trainers

It’s a topic that hits close to home for many, and is of deep concern to even more, yet how to address the subject of suicide can feel overwhelming. Not knowing what to say, when to say it or even what resources are available can keep even the most well-meaning would-be helpers quiet on the matter.

That’s why suicide prevention trainings like those offered through Intermountain Health are so important.

For the past several years, Jordan Merrill, Intermountain Health Community Health Program Manager, and his team have been offering a general suicide prevention training known as QPR — Question, Persuade, Refer. The requests for these trainings have increased, both in Southern Utah and across the state, and Merrill said they’re doing everything they can to expand these offerings, including adding additional specific trainings for specific groups, such as athletes.

“We’ve started offering Vital Cog, a suicide prevention for athletic staff; coaches, athletic trainers, anyone who works with athletes of any age,” Merrill said. “I was trained through the University of Colorado School of Medicine to be able to provide this training and we’re hoping to work with school districts, universities and more.”

The main difference between QPR and Vital Cog is a general versus more specific approach.

“QPR is very broad, and can help all kinds of people and situations,” Merrill said. “Vital Cog offers the staff things they can and should recognize with athletes.”

For example, many athletes feel a lot of internal and external pressure to succeed and when those expectations are not met, they feel like they’re failing.

“We want the staff members who work with athletes to know how to navigate those specific situations, so the athletes don’t feel that,” Merrill said.

Another specific group that often deals with people under a lot of stress, are those working in healthcare. Intermountain Health offers an online training titled Counseling on Access to Lethal Means, which offers evidence-based material on how to speak to patients when they are in crisis.

“It’s designed for social workers, doctors, nurses, really any clinician, and it’s free,” Merrill said. “We’ve already had around 200 people take this training and the feedback has been very positive.”

This particular training provides CEUs (continued education training) for people in the healthcare world, and at the same time it allows them to sharpen their skills in how to offer their patients even more effective care.

“We want our patients to receive top notch care,” Merrill said. “If the patient is in crisis, we want to have our caregivers effectively navigate that situation to prevent them from taking their own life, and to help family members assist their loved one in navigating the crisis.”

In the time Merrill’s team has been offering these trainings, he has seen the need for this kind of training increase. On the positive side, Merrill said he the conversations around important topics like suicide have also increased, which can lead to better outcomes.

“The more we talk about it, the more it reduces stigma,” Merrill said. “There’s still the No. 1 myth out there that talking about suicide will put thoughts in people’s heads or create a negative situation, but it’s the opposite. Talking about it, learning how to cope, these things reduce stigma and anxiety and the thoughts that relate to it.”

For more information on suicide prevention and how to help others, check out or IntermountainHealth.

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see