As more and more people talk about mental health, there is growing interest in how everyone can play a role in preventing suicide.
Several people gathered downtown to learn how to become trainers in spotting the signs of suicidal thoughts and actions at a safeTALK train-the-trainer workshop. The two-day, two-part workshop sponsored by Prairie Mountain Health began Thursday and offered additional training through LivingWorks, an international organization dedicated to suicide prevention.
The workshop is designed to train people to be alert when someone is contemplating suicide and to intervene gently and get the person the help they need.
The first part teaches the LivingWorks safeTALK program (Suicide Alertness for Everyone, Talk, Ask, Listen, Keep Safe), teaching people how to identify the signs that someone is considering suicide, talk to that person, and connect them with resources.
The second part teaches his Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) program, which shows people how to recognize the signs, intervene, and create a safety plan to keep someone safe.
Even a small difference in something a person sees or hears about a person can help them determine what to do next, said Andrea Carlucci, LivingWorks Certified Trainer, ASIST teacher, safeTALK and safeTALK Training Instructor for Trainers. .
The workshop gives people in-depth insight into how to recognize when someone needs help and how to get them to a safer place. While she couldn’t say specifically where the attendees came from, she said many of them were there to be facilitators at their workplace.
One of the reasons the signs of suicidal thoughts can be hard to spot, she says, is that people don’t want to believe someone can.
“We know anyone can have suicidal thoughts and there are vulnerable people, but we can’t waste energy on people who have been falsely identified,” Carlucci said. “Part of the suicide alert is whether this person has thoughts? So we ask them directly and spend time with them. However, with this program, people do not have to feel entirely responsible for that person to keep them safe. It is essentially a matter of identifying whether this person is thinking about suicide.
Training people to help prevent suicide has become more important than ever, Carlucci said. These include the isolation of COVID-19, restricted access to mental health assistance and, more recently, flooding in parts of Manitoba threatening property and livelihoods.
It’s not just public or broad-spectrum reasons people consider suicide, individual reasons also come into play. She said something as small as the weather, or a few words from someone another could push someone over the edge.
As a retired psychiatric nurse, she added that it is fitting that the workshop be held in May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. She said the signs are missed because understanding them comes from being considered a criminal matter. Changing the language around it would help, because saying that someone has committed suicide is entrenched in the Criminal Code of Canada and that committing suicide is no longer a crime.
Also, people should not view suicide as a “success” or a “failure” as this reinforces stigma. In the medical field, the terminology is now death by suicide, suicide or suicide.
Once the training is completed, they become provisional trainers for safeTALK. But for a LivingWorks certification, they go through three training sessions the first year of the train-the-trainer, and then two more training sessions each year after that. Carlucci explained that to be proficient, they would need to go through at least 10 practice sessions.
This is an ongoing process, she said, as data is updated and circumstances change.
More information about LivingWorks and its programs can be found at livingworks.net.
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