Clergy Support Memorial Church

A Church Without Walls

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The Benefits of Suicide Intervention Training

By Rev Sam Kutowy

Did you know that there were 3,839 reported suicides in Canada in 2020, the 12th leading cause of death?[i] Suicide was the 9th leading cause of death for men[ii] in Canada and the 15th leading cause of death for women.[iii]

Sit with those numbers for a minute. That is a lot of preventable deaths, pain, and sorrow.

In March 2023, I attended the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) two-day intensive program that focuses on providing participants with the necessary skills to intervene in cases of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. As someone who has experienced ASIST training firsthand, I can confidently say that it is a truly transformative experience that has the potential to save lives.

Clipart humans holding handsThe workshop is designed to be interactive and engaging, with a mix of lectures, group discussions, and hands-on activities such as role-playing different scenarios. The trainers are experienced professionals who are passionate about suicide prevention and are dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment for all participants.

The first day of the training focused on building awareness and understanding of suicide, including risk factors, warning signs, and myths and misconceptions. We also learned about the importance of self-care and the impact that suicide can have on the people left behind. The trainers encouraged us to be open and honest about our own experiences and emotions, which helped to create a sense of community and support within the group.

The second day of the training focused on suicide intervention techniques, including crisis intervention and safety planning. We learned about the importance of building rapport with the person in crisis, as well as techniques for de-escalating the situation and helping them to stay safe. We also learned about the various levels of risk and how to determine the appropriate level of intervention based on the person’s needs and circumstances.

One of the most valuable aspects of the workshop for me was the opportunity to practice active listening and communication skills. We participated in role-playing exercises that allowed us to apply the skills we were learning in real-life scenarios. This was challenging at times, as the scenarios were often emotionally intense and required us to be present and focused on the person in crisis.

Throughout the workshop, the trainers emphasized the importance of collaboration and teamwork in suicide intervention. Participants worked in pairs to assess the level of risk and develop a plan of action that considered the needs and preferences of the person in crisis in practice exercises. This collaborative approach helped to reinforce the idea that suicide prevention is a community effort, and that we all have a role to play in supporting each other.

One of the highlights of the second day was the “safe plan” activity, in which we worked in pairs to create a safety plan for a hypothetical person in crisis. This activity allowed us to apply the skills we had learned throughout the workshop and develop a tangible plan of action that could be used in a real-life situation.

Overall, my experience with ASIST training was incredibly positive and transformative. The workshop provided me with a new set of skills and tools that I can use to support people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviours.

LivingWorks is the world’s leading suicide intervention training company and has been around since 1983.

If you are considering attending ASIST training, I would highly recommend it. The workshop is intense and emotionally challenging at times, but it is also incredibly rewarding and empowering. You will leave with a deeper understanding of suicide prevention and a newfound sense of confidence in your ability to intervene in a crisis situation. More importantly, you will have the skills and knowledge to potentially save a life.

If you cannot commit to or do not feel up to the intensity of the two-day training program, there are several other options to explore. One option is LivingWorks Faith which is designed for all Christian ministry leaders who want to learn to effectively prevent, intervene, and minister around the issue of suicide in their congregations. This program is online, takes about 5-6 hours and costs $149.95 CAD.

All other training options can be found here:

I hope all clergy consider taking suicide prevention training to add more tools their mental health toolbox.