ASIST | Canadian Mental Health Association York Region South Simcoe

The Canadian Mental Health Association York Region and South Simcoe (CMHA – YRSS) in Ontario offers over 30 specialized mental health programs and services to over 17,000 individuals per year. It has a team of 350+ staff that includes psychotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists, peer support specialists, nurse practitioners and many other caring mental health care professionals.

As part of its services, CMHA-YRSS offers Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). Launched in Calgary in 1983, the ASIST program has grown to have an international presence, with more than 8,000 certified trainers in over 30 countries providing training in suicide intervention and prevention. CMHA-YRSS has two trainers who are ASIST-certified as suicide intervention specialists and who have received specialized training for supporting ASIST participants.

Recognizing the signs, reducing the risk

ASIST Training is a two-day interactive workshop that teaches everyone how to identify and provide emergency support, increase safety, reduce risk and promote wellness and recovery for those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Participants are also provided with a list of mental health resources are available in the community so they can help refer someone they know to services when needed.

Though not all suicides can be prevented, some strategies can help reduce the risk, such as early recognition of the signs of suicidal thinking and offering appropriate intervention.

Last year, CMHA-YRSS delivered ASIST training to over 200 individuals, including youth specialized service providers, educators, agencies supporting racialized communities, law enforcement, including RCMP, OPP and York Region Police, and more.

This year, their goal is to provide ASIST training to 35-40 military personnel, Veterans and their families, aged 16 and up, in York Region and South Simcoe. The unique stressors, trauma and barriers to mental health care that Veterans and serving military – and their families – face every day were key motivators for CMHA-YRSS to offer this training to this community.

Training the helpers

“Our hope is that this training will help this community feel encouraged and inspired to come forward and seek safety and support if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” said Danielle Luciano, Manager, Community Education and Training, CMHA York Region and South Simcoe. “We also believe that early identification for the risk of suicide and prevention is key.”

ASIST aims to provide a training experience that prepares people for a variety of helping roles, whether it be for a loved one, colleagues, or out in the community. No prior training or experience is necessary to participate in ASIST.

Giving military family members the opportunity to engage in ASIST training is important because they too experience unique stressors through their own experiences, as well as through the experiences of their serving loved ones, and at times, when acting as caregivers.

“A prime goal for us is to contribute to reducing and eradicating stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. We want to inspire people to take this training so they can apply life-saving skills when interacting with someone experiencing suicidal feelings and behaviours,” said Luciano. “We feel successful when we can help create a learning environment that is safe, and participants feel supported and confident to share their personal stories and experiences.”

Thanks to the support of the Bell True Patriot Love Fund – and the generosity of donors like you – CMHA-YRSS is able to offer ASIST training at no cost to Veterans, serving members and their families. Thank you!