DAVIDSON—Organizers were pleased with the response to a suicide intervention seminar held last week at the Davidson branch of Carlton Trail Regional College.
About 20 people attended the SafeTALK workshop, presented by LivingWorks, an Alberta-based organization that trains more than 60,000 people internationally each year in suicide prevention and intervention techniques.
Instructor Terry Chapman, who conducted the workshop in Davidson, said she was glad to see the group responding well to the material, asking lots of questions and feeling comfortable discussing the issues at hand.
“People were really receptive to what we had to say,” she said. “It’s an amazing program, and it does save lives.”
The program’s ultimate goal, she explained, is to help participants make their hometown “a suicide-safer community.”
Dana Gayle Dahl, the college’s program delivery associate, said SafeTALK and other programs like it are helping to raise awareness of a taboo topic that needs to be discussed.
Participants in the seminar are taught a four-step process to be used when encountering someone who appears to be considering suicide.
Chapman stressed the importance of recognizing when signs of suicidal thoughts are present, and realizing that any such thoughts can be serious.
She said research has shown that nearly all people contemplating suicide will give clues or hints of some kind beforehand, although these are often ignored or dismissed. In most cases, these signs are intended as requests for help.
“They really don’t want to die,” she said. “In other words, life is stronger. They want to live.”
Participants were taught to ask the person directly if they are contemplating suicide. When they have established that thoughts of suicide are present, they can then connect people with resources and help to protect them from harming themselves.
The three-hour seminar is advertised as suitable for anyone over the age of 15. Chapman said it’s important for anyone who is concerned about the safety of their friends and family members.
“This is a tough subject,” she said, “but suicide is everyone’s business.”
Chapman, a Saskatoon resident, told the group she has a great deal of first-hand experience in dealing with suicidal people. Her first husband, who showed signs of schizophrenia during their marriage, attempted to commit suicide multiple times.
“I didn’t know what to look for,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what the signs were.”
She has been involved in suicide intervention for about 15 years and has been training other people in the process for the last four years. The workshop included many anecdotes from her personal experience.
Chapman also discussed some common misconceptions about suicide, including the myth that it only affects certain groups of people, or that discussing it openly will only make it more pervasive and common.
On the contrary, she said, anyone can have thoughts of suicide, and avoiding an open and direct discussion of the subject can be dangerous.
The program also featured several video sessions featuring Khari Jones, a former CFL player who was recently hired as the quarterbacks coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ upcoming season. Jones is an experienced actor who has frequently appeared on stage and in movies and commercials.
Participants watched clips in which several situations were shown. Later, they acted out different scenarios with partners and with the larger group.
Carlton Trail has plans to hold a second suicide intervention workshop this week. ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) builds on the skills taught in SafeTALK, helping participants to become more comfortable and competent in working to prevent the immediate risk of suicide.
The two-day seminar is described as “highly interactive, practical and practice-oriented.” The college intends to host ASIST from March 6 to 7, running both days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., depending on how much interest there is locally.
SafeTALK was co-sponsored by the Davidson Inter-Church Association, the Town of Davidson, the Davidson Kinsmen Club, the Optimist Club of Davidson, Affinity Credit Union and Panther Industries. Their sponsorship made the workshop free of charge for all participants.