Talk, Ask, Listen, KeepSafe


We too often hear of others missing the warning signs for suicide: we didn’t notice, they never said anything, invitations for help are often overlooked, and our awareness of an issue doesn’t come to light until later.

It’s time to increase our awareness and develop our alertness.

SafeTALK was developed in 2006, and has since spread and been implemented in over 20 countries around the world. Participants are trained through videos, group discussions, scenarios, and learning and engaging in the practical steps to help an individual in distress.

York launched a Mental Health and Wellness strategy last year, which included building capacity to not only support York community members, but also train and educate them in mental wellness. SafeTALK (which stands for Tell, Ask, Listen, and KeepSafe), is part of a university-wide suicide prevention strategy. It is designed to increase participants’ ability to identify people who are having thoughts of suicide, and confidently engage with and ask them about suicide.

The course is available through Mental Health and Wellness at York to students, faculty, and staff—free of charge. It is a three-hour training session, in which you will receive certification upon successful completion. The next available course is offered on December 5, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The purpose of the course is to train individuals to notice and respond to active situations effectively, defuse a situation and provide resources for further help.

“Last year, more than 400 people on campus were trained in safeTALK, and this year we expect to train more than 500,” says Janice Walls, advisor and deputy spokesperson for York Media.

York also offers a LivingWorks Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course. This is a two-day interactive workshop that builds upon the knowledge and understanding of suicide and suicidal behaviour, and teaches the skills to intervene when a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts. It aims to prepare participants with the ability to provide suicide first-aid intervention upon certification.

Although safeTALK and ASIST are two separate programs, ASIST is much more in-depth and detailed, meant to complement and parallel safeTALK.

Individuals are taught to work with those considering suicide, mitigating their feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed. ASIST involves creating a safety plan to avoid danger and prevent suicide. This training is also no-cost—however, due to the large demand and interest in this program, training sessions at York are now full until summer.

These programs are in place to teach awareness and vigilance, moving beyond common tendencies to miss or dismiss suicidal behaviours. They educate individuals on how to effectively perform suicide first-aid, and perhaps even save a life.

SafeTALK and ASIST offer important avenues in providing assistance when people need it most.

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