Monday, November 5, 2012


This past weekend, over 25 volunteers going through their 59 hours of training, took part in the 2-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshop (ASIST).

This workshop is about helping caregivers (meaning you, who has the ability to care for another individual) become confident, comfortable & able to recognize those in risk of suicide ideations, and to intervene through active listening, reflection, and helping that individual get to a safe place through these steps.

The workshop started off with an introduction video, and some chatting about what we were seeing in the scenarios.  Everyone was eager to voice what they were hearing from the actors, and how they felt they would start talking to the individuals at risk.

We then broke into 2 groups.  We were asked to share a story about how suicide has made an impact in each of our lives.  Through tears, pats on the back and a lot of "thank you for sharing" statements, we were all able to breathe and move forward with our training.

Hearing about suicide is a scary, surreal thing for people.  There are a lot of leftover questions that mostly get left unanswered.  There is guilt surrounding the "I never saw it coming" and "I wish I could have known so that I could have helped".  There is fear associated with "If X could take her life, then maybe other people I know are at risk".

We worked through the scenarios from the video we watched, each taking turns to explore the risk at hand, understand what the person is feeling and going through, and contract with them to keep them safe.

We were asked to close our eyes, and envision our normal drive home from work, or school.  That traffic is really backed up on this ride home.  That as you approach the bridge you cross to get to the highway, you see someone standing on the edge, staring down at the concrete.

How would you react?  Would you feel capable enough to get out of your car to try and get the person to talk, to get down from the bridge?  Could you handle the level of personal and reflecting emotions?  This is what the workshop is about - being able to help that individual step down from the bridge. 

At the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region we don't have Facetime or Skype to be able to see our callers, but we hear the distress, the despair, and the feelings of hopelessness, grief, loss and desperation in their voices.  We apply the same tactics we would helping someone face to face, as we would on the phone.

At the end of our workshop, we were asked how we felt about what we've learned, and everyone was in agreement saying that they would feel more comfortable, confident and would be able to help someone with suicidal thoughts.

We were also told to do something nice for ourselves after both days - caregivers also need to take care of themselves.  We had people who went shopping for retail therapy, those who went to yoga, those who went out for dinner with a loved one or friends, just to take a breather again.

The ASIST workshop prepares our volunteers and  staff to take on these calls, as 10-20% of our annual calls revolve around suicide ideations.

ASIST isn't just for the Distress Centre family - anyone can take this workshop.  Businesses, corporations, management teams, organizations, teachers and school staff are encourage to look into taking the ASIST workshop.  You'll be thankful you did, even if it were just for one person in your life.

Call our office today to inquire about booking your ASIST workshop at 613-238-1089.

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