Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Reflecting on ASIST

Reflecting back on my weekend training.

Two weeks ago I completed ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). Over the two-day course in what the trainers call 'suicide first-aid', participants take part in discussions, watch videos and role plays. The idea is to train 20 odd individuals in how to prevent someone who is suicidal from taking their own life.

I've wanted to do ASIST training for two years now. It's been on my to-do list ever since I did safeTALK training back in 2012, but I was never able to find a date that suited me. More recently, completing ASIST made it to my '23 things I want to try before I'm 23' list. Not only did I want to complete it, but I felt I needed to. 

Too often have I been in the situation where I wished I had done ASIST so I'd know what to do. Or I'd know whether what I was doing was right.

I also always knew completing ASIST would be difficult for me. I'd been warned you had to be emotionally strong enough to go through it.That depending on your own experiences of suicide it can be triggering.

See I have difficulty with the word 'suicide'. I find it hard to say. More so if I ever have to say it in relation to a person, which is sadly more often than anyone would like.The word itself has the power to upset me. And that's the power of experience. Because of my personal and often unresolved experiences with suicide, the word has the power to upset. 

And while I had thought most of that was in the past, ASIST brought a lot of emotions back up for me.

I had an entire weekend with suicide on my mind, and when I went home in the evenings that stayed with me. 

The trainers also emphasised the importance of self-care. We were encouraged after both days to go home and take some time to do something relaxing, and something you wouldn't normally do. After Day 1, on the Saturday, I wanted to go straight to bed more than anything. I was physically and emotionally drained, and I wanted to psych myself up to sit through a whole other day of that. But some of my friends were visiting, so I spent some time with them and it took my mind completely off of suicide. The next day I was far more prepared for the course than I would have been had I went straight to bed, although a little sleep deprived. On the Sunday night I watched some good TV.

The notion of self-care as 'something I wouldn't usually do' was new to me. I've always looked at going to bed early, taking time away from the people around you etc. as self-care. But I have been so wrong. Self-care is more like the quote below - self-preservation. And we all need the support of other people to make ourselves stronger.

But back to ASIST. Run by the HSE along the model set out by the Living Works Network, the training is free to attend but places are limited, and they tend to fill up quite quickly. If you have UCD connections like I do, the Welfare Officer is currently running a PleaseTalk Ambassador Programme training up the University College Dublin community e.g  staff, students, academics, society members etc. in suicide awareness and prevention. See more here.

After the first day of the training I was asked why I decided to get trained seen as I'm not a Health Care Professional. And at the time I wasn't able to answer the question properly. 
The thing is, I have no intention of becoming a Health Care Professional. But ASIST is important for entire communities to learn. It's about knowing the signs of suicide, of being able to bring them up, of addressing them, and mostly of preventing suicide. 

Every day, and any day, you could find yourself in the situation where you notice someone is feeling suicidal, or someone tells you they have been feeling that way. Every day it is people like me or you who if they are aware of the signs, can recognise them in someone else, and can save lives.

In the past few years I have found myself in this situation more times than I wish I had. And the reason I wish I hadn't found myself in those situations is that I felt out of my depth. I wasn't confident in any kind of intervention because I was aware that I unprepared and lacking ASIST training.

3/4 young people reported that they would be most likely to use their friends as a source of support when it comes to mental health according to the Headstrong My World Survey.
We can't leave suicide prevention to Health Care Professionals, because 1) the majority of people would turn to a friend rather than professional help first, and 2) you have more opportunities to pick up on the warning signs from the people in your community because you see and interact with them regularly.

So while the weekend was tough for me, I got through it. And not only am I stronger now, but I have the skills to help others. 

What better way is there to spend your weekend?

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