Last March, Team Rubicon Canada was excited to deliver Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) to 12 Greyshirt volunteers in Calgary.
We have a dense population of veterans, first responders and civilians who are regularly exposed to disaster zones, making suicide intervention a life-saving skill for our volunteers to have.
What is ASIST?
ASIST, a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid, teaches participants how to recognize the signs of someone who might be considering suicide. It also helps them develop a plan to keep the individual safe and, ultimately, get them help. The program has been delivered for over three decades with positive results and is updated regularly to align it with the latest research to support the skills learned. Lastly, ASIST seeks to build a network of trained caregivers and create a common language around suicide and suicide intervention.
Why ASIST is Important for Team Rubicon Canada
Suicide rates of veterans and first responders in Canada consistently exceed those of civilians. In an interesting exercise at the beginning of the ASIST course, each candidate was (anonymously) asked to indicate whether they have ever had thoughts of suicide or exhibited suicidal behaviours. The resulting tally was a stark reminder of the importance of learning suicide intervention skills to keep our volunteers safe, and utilizing them with those who have recently survived a disaster.
Participants of the Calgary ASIST course provided this feedback about the value of the program:
- “Great course, should be more well known.”
- “As much as it was difficult to bring up events from the past, I felt a sense of renewed confidence, thanks to this course. Thank you!”
- “I was able to learn skills I can carry over into multiple areas of my life.”
- “The scenario practice allowed for a more realistic experience of intervention.”
- “Great training for the mental challenges faced by TR.”
As a mental health professional, first responder and Team Rubicon Canada’s Peer Support Manager, I am absolutely thrilled on many levels to see this program rolled out to our volunteers. The more we speak a common language around mental health, the more vital conversations we’ll have around suicide intervention. I look forward to hearing more about the learnings from ASIST and the successful interventions that result from it.
ASIST offers a valuable opportunity for Team Rubicon Canada to live up to its “Greyshirts Always” motto. We’ve learned to watch each other’s backs in the arena. Now it’s time for us to step up, get trained and provide the best support we can to each other and the communities we serve.
More to Come
Thanks to a grant from the Bell True Patriot Love Fund, Team Rubicon Canada will continue to roll out ASIST to volunteers in 2019, with upcoming courses scheduled in the National Capital Region and northern British Columbia.
Jamie Knight is a registered social worker and Team Rubicon Canada’s volunteer Peer Support Manager