Online Counselling and Suicide Intervention Specialist (OCSIS)

The world has moved online, and so have suicidal people. Earn a Certificate as an Online Counselling and Suicide Intervention Specialist! Training focus: Knowledge and skill sets for text and IM communications, but suitable for anyone working with suicidal people by telephone, Skype, or face-to-face.


Why it will work

When people are in a suicidal crisis they need help NOW! For online suicide crisis intervention to be effective it must be accessible, available 24/7, affordable at no or low cost, and anonymous. Convenience and privacy cannot be overemphasized for high risk groups, including males and youth. Helpers responding to those at-risk and untreated who cannot or will not access traditional services must be well trained.

Why this training program?

Sigmund Freud once said, “By words alone one person can make another person blissfully happy or drive him to despair.” In this unique course you will learn to use the power of the written word to save lives. The arc of human communications has been forever changed by the Internet, and this training program was created specifically to help suicidal people seeking assistance in cyberspace.

Suicide rates for QPR courses are US-specific.

Suicide is one of the most critical health concerns, both in Australia and on a global scale. In 2015, over 3000 Australians died by suicide. For every suicide death, as many as 25 individuals will attempt suicide, and for some communities, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and LGBTI people, rates of suicide attempts and deaths are even higher.

Over the past decade in Australia, there has been a 20% increase in the number of suicides and suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44.

We also know that suicide rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at least twice that of non-Indigenous Australians, and that while women make more suicide attempts, 75% of suicides are by men.

Some people in the community are particularly vulnerable, for example men aged 18 to 24 who have previously served in the Australian Defence Forces are twice as likely to die by suicide as men of the same age in the general population. Other workforces with higher risk of suicide can include those working in agricultural, transport and construction and health sectors.


  • Studies show more text messages are sent than phone calls made
  • Suicidal people are texting their desire, intent and plans to die to others
  • Of our highest risk group, 90% of men use the internet to find health information
  • Only via web-based communications can confidentiality be fully protected
  • Online intervention and counseling has proven to be safe and effective

Why now?

In some recent studies published in the new NOVA Science Internet and Suicide (2009), several authors note:

  • Internet behavioral interventions appear safe and effective
  • A greater percentage of contacts by email voluntarily report suicidality compared telephone callers
  • A high degree of self-disclosure appears common
  • Many of those seeking text-only communications appear to need the extra confidentiality of Web based interactions
  • Hearing-impaired and speech-impaired helpers – and those in distress – find text-only communications highly useful
  • Persons in remote areas where no mental health services are available can benefit from online assistance
  • Young people whose telephone calls may be monitored by malevolent parents can get help online and when other avenues are blocked
  • Gender identity issues, even gender, and all other areas of bias and racial prejudice can be disclosed (or not) in cyberspace
  • For those who lack trust, or fear the loss of face, or need to feel they are still in control of at least some of their life, find the internet a safe place to venture out for help
  • Contact can be asynchronous (email) or synchronous (IM)
  • 24/7 emergency access is possible
  • There is no need to wait for an appointment
  • Petrol and transportation is expensive, bandwidth is cheap
  • Agoraphobics, persons with mobility challenges, chronic disease or who are bed ridden can still get to a keyboard and a computer
  • Many clients prefer e-counseling
  • Underserved rural areas can be prioritized
  • Schedules can be flexible

On the downside:

  • There are no verbal clues, or behavioral clues to match words with expressed emotion
  • Addiction to internet use – including contact with helpers – is not unheard of and may present problems similar to those encountered with so-called “frequent callers.”
  • Security breaches of interactions may occur
  • The seriously mentally ill may not be appropriate candidates for online interventions
  • The person must be able to text and navigate the Web
  • Fluency in the use of the written word is necessary and not much researched

Bottom line: Providers need to be prepared to meet and help suicidal people where they are; in cyberspace.


According to Dr. Keith Harris of the University of Queensland, the problem of “suicide surfers” is global. Currently, multiple authors in the new Nova Science book, Internet and Suicide conclude that the Internet serves as a major information resource for suicidal people. Again, Dr. Harris, “Better online support services for suicidal people are more important than shutting down websites showing ways to die.”

Modularised in a rich mix of text, video, voice-over PowerPoint™ lectures, interactive practice sessions, and other state-of-the-art interactive and e-learning technologies, by the end of your training experience you will have met or exceeded the educational standards currently in place for clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and clinical social workers.

Prerequisites include text messaging and web navigation skills. The course is SCORM compliant and approved for continuing education.

Core competencies taught

The suicide crisis intervention and risk assessment competencies taught in this course are derived from nationally defined standards and recommendations as published by the American Association of Suicidology and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Further, these competencies are framed within the 2009 Practice Guidelines: Core Elements in Responding to Mental Health Crises as published by the U.S. Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


The inclusion of the word "Counseling" in the title of this course was recommended following a comprehensive peer review process during which reviewers noted that "suicide crisis intervention" was an insufficient description of what is taught. The counseling skills taught in this course are specific to mitigating suicide risk, and thus the course is not a comprehensive or substitute training program in counselor education, but rather a value-added skill set for those serving persons at-risk for suicidal behaviors.

The key knowledge competencies taught to all participants to earn a Certificate of Course Completion are listed below.

  1. Is aware of relevant suicide prevention efforts in own country
  2. Understands the ethical principles for online services
  3. Understands suicidal behaviour, terms, statistics, phenomenology
  4. Understands common myths and misconceptions about suicide
  5. Understands suicidal desire and its sources
  6. Understands suicidal capability (attempt history, intoxication, etc.)
  7. Understands suicidal intent (attempt in progress, lethal planning, etc.)
  8. Understands the relationship of suicide to violence toward others
  9. Understands suicide buffers (social supports, ambivalence, etc.)
  10. Demonstrates knowledge of suicide risk and protective factors
  11. Understands the relationship psychiatric illness to suicide
  12. Understands the purpose of means restriction
  13. Identifies high risk groups, especially in cyberspace
  14. Understands involuntary treatment laws/need to rescue

The OCSIS Certificate of Course Completion means that the learner completed all modules and successfully passed all required quizzes, exams, and practice challenges, thus demonstrating having mastered the knowledge competencies listed above.

Available to those who earn a Certificate of Course Completion the QPR Institute offers an advanced, interactive skill demonstration course in which the competencies taught may be practiced with other students. Called the OCSIS Certificate of Competency, this 10-hour certificate is earned only through structured learning and practice sessions with other learners or an Institute instructor. To earn this certificate, core competencies must be successfully demonstrated. Learners produce a portfolio of three text-only interventions, assessments and crisis plans for expert instructor review and objective scoring. An interview and final exam is conducted by an Institute faculty member in person, by phone, Skype or via a text channel. Enrollment is limited to those who have earned the OCSIS Certificate of Course Completion.