SafeTALK teaches suicide awareness and learning to ask the hard question

November 16, 2013 – CameronHelps held a SafeTALK suicide prevention training session for over 20 of its volunteers, board members and staff. Suicide is a taboo topic most people don’t like to talk about. However, SafeTALK teaches you how to open up this awkward subject, especially with someone you suspect is at risk of committing suicide.  It teaches you to be open, direct and honest:  “Are you thinking about suicide?”

SafeTALK is suicide prevention training for everyday people and stands for Suicide AlertnessFor Everyone.  “Suicide is everyone’s business and should be an open subject in every home,” said SafeTALK leader and Social Worker Jennifer Brighton from the CameronHelps Board. Sttatistics that show the majority of suicidal people don’t want to die. They want help to keep living. They willingly, or unconsciously, invite others to recognize they are thinking of suicide.

That’s why a direct question is so important.  Co-presenter Melanie Schwindt said suicidal people always want to talk about why they’re thinking about suicide.  Most of them haven’t decided 100% that they want to die.Instead, they want to talk to somebody about their not wanting to live.  A caring person can listen.  If there is someone listening, a suicidal person can talk themselves out of acting on their thoughts of suicide. Talking is a relief for most, allowing suicidal people a chance to release their burden of feelings.

A caring person can restate the invitation: “This is important. Let’s talk about this. I am listening. What’s happened to get you here?” It’ helpful to be sensitive, caring, direct, calm, patient and non-judgmental.

SafeTALK makes you aware of what may cause you to avoid, miss and dismiss the possibility of suicide in another person. You may miss the cues because you haven’t even considered the possibility of suicide. Reasons to avoid helping a suicidal person may be: you are too scared to help; you don’t know what to do; you don’t want to interfere; you don’t want the responsibility. Reasons to dismiss may be: you think the person isn’t serious; you think suicide is rare (not true); you think only certain kinds of people commit suicide, not doctors or lawyers or rich and powerful people (not true); you think only people who act very strange/are mentally ill commit suicide (not true).

SafeTALK teaches you your job isn’t to save a life, but it is only t connect a suicidal person with a trained person who can help prevent their injury or death. There are intervention services available in the community for suicidal people, and a caring person can contact these services to keep a vulnerable suicidal person safe: 911; Trillium Health Partners Crisis 905-848-7495; Halton Health Care Crisis in Oakville 905-875-1555; William Osler Crisis in Brampton 905-494-2120; Distress Centre Peel Inc. 905-278-7055; Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868; and Mobile Crisis Team of Peel 905-848-7754.

Courtesy of Annie Shalvardjian

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