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ASIST Training & Mental Health Awareness

Suicide is a serious health and social concern in our society today. The World Health Organization statistics show that suicide rates among young people have increased alarmingly in the last few years worldwide.

Mental health illness plays an important part in suicidal thoughts and suicide rates. This includes people with developmental disabilities and dual diagnosis. Although there is limited data on the rate of suicides or attempted suicides in the developmental sector, the reality is that it does exist. It is important that people supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and dual diagnosis are made aware of this serious health risk and be educated in a proactive manner.

Beginning in January 2018, Reena, will offer “Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training” (ASIST), which was developed through LivingWorks Education Inc. LivingWorks is “dedicated to saving lives through the creation, development, and delivery of innovative training experiences that empower individuals, organizations and communities to be safer from suicide”.

The 2- day ASIST training will be facilitated by a manager and a social worker from Reena that have completed the extensive 5 day “Training for Trainers (T4T) course and are now registered trainers. The 2- day ASIST training is an “interactive workshop in suicide first- aid”. ASIST teaches participants to identify when someone may be at risk of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety needs. This initial training will be offered to managers and supervisors.

Reena, in partnership with York Support Services Network (YSSN) will then begin offering the ASIST training to front-line staff and to the general public. It will be facilitated by registered trainers from both Reena and YSSN.

These first steps in raising awareness about suicide and mental health coincide in the same month as Bell’s Let’s Talk Day which takes place on January 31st, 2018. Bell’s Let’s Talk day is dedicated to moving mental health forward in Canada, Bell Let’s Talk “promotes awareness and action with a strategy built on 4 key pillars: Fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting world-class research, and leading by example in workplace mental health.”

Reena’s new training initiative and Bell’s Let’s Talk Day are examples of how we can spread awareness and start the conversation about mental health issues including suicide intervention and prevention. The most important thing is that it is okay to talk about it. We need to encourage open dialogue, and honest and direct communication about mental health and suicide intervention across all our communities.