News & Press
Community Wellness: A suicide-safer community begins with all of us
By Kris Hamilton, MA, LPC, CAADC, and Liz Thelen, MSW, LMSW, CAADC
Posted Jul. 10, 2015 at 11:47 PM
Ionia County Community Mental Health offered a workshop this week for community members and ICCMH staff that prepared them to intervene if and when they encounter a person who is considering suicide.
Suicide is a real and present problem in every community. Many people who might want to help are afraid to, because they aren’t sure what to do. The aim of Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (or ASIST) is to bring suicide awareness to the forefront in Ionia County, as well as the understanding of how we can all work together to keep our friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors safe.
While there are certain groups of people who may be more at risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, anyone facing struggles in their life and in emotional or physical pain could potentially contemplate killing themselves. In 2013 in the U.S., 41,149 suicides were reported. Someone in the country died by suicide every 12.8 minutes, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans that year (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). It is estimated that deaths that can’t be proven as suicides and therefore are not recorded as suicides could make that number between 5 to 25 percent higher.
The two-day ASIST workshop (which is free to participants from organizations in and residents of Ionia County) helps each participant become someone who is ready, willing and able to help a person who is at risk of suicide; and lets them know about the many other resources in the community that also can help. The more individuals there are who are trained in these skills, the more our community becomes suicide-safer for everyone.
ASIST teaches the Pathway for Assisting Life (PAL), a sort of suicide first aid with three phases. The caregiver – the person who intervenes – connects with the person at risk of suicide by asking questions and expressing concern; listens to understand the person’s choices and what is driving them to plan their suicide; and keeps the person safe from suicide for now, either by helping them create a safety plan or by calling emergency first responders or other assistance.
PAL is not therapy, nor necessarily an ongoing commitment to help a person at risk of suicide, unless the caregiver chooses to continue being the main caregiver. The process focuses on listening carefully, and letting the person at risk of suicide know “I care,” “I understand” and “I’ll help.”
A suicide may impact a few people, an entire school, a community or large numbers of people – as Robin Williams’ suicide did. But we all can be that person who makes the difference between life and death for someone thinking about suicide. Another Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training will be held later this year. To learn more, call Ionia County Community Mental Health at 616-527-1790.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the ICCMH 24-hour toll free crisis line at 888-527-1790 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.