Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) – Uqaqatigiiluk! (Talk About It) (Details)

Name of province/ territory:


City/ Region:


Description of Initiative:

The Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a two-day, skills-building workshop that prepares caregivers of all kinds, to provide suicide first aid interventions. The workshops are presented collaboratively by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Public Health in Nunavut. Professionals, volunteers, and other helpers learn how to support persons with thoughts of suicide with a view to increase their safety. The program is delivered using small group discussions and scenarios that allow participants to practice their skills. These sessions are developed using problem-based, practical application and goal-oriented adult learning principles. The workshop also includes the use of tools, such as videos on suicide intervention, that help participants understand the feelings, beliefs and attitudes about suicide in a safe and supportive environment.

The training equips participants to:

  • identify people who have thoughts of suicide;
  • understand how beliefs and attitudes can affect suicide interventions;
  • seek a shared understanding of the reasons for thoughts of suicide and the reasons for living;
  • review current risks and develop a plan to increase safety from suicidal behavior for an agreed amount of time; and
  • follow-up on all safety commitments, accessing further help as needed.

ASIST is in use in England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Norway and numerous U.S. states. More than 750,000 people around the world have been trained in the ASIST program, developed by the LivingWorks Education Inc. principals in 1983. It now appears to be the world's most widely-used suicide prevention program.

The program was modified by Nunavummiut (people of Nunavut) and the program owners, LivingWorks Education Inc., to suit the unique circumstances that exist in the Nunavut context. The program has been promoted by the majority of workplaces and many of the staff members, including staff from the RCMP "V" Division, volunteer their time to support the training.

Initiative Key Objectives:

The objectives of the ASIST initiative in Nunavut are as follows:

  • reduce the rates of suicide in Nunavut;
  • provide suicide intervention training to first responders and key community contacts in English, French, Inuktitut or Innuinaqtun; and
  • ensure that signs of those at risk of suicide are recognized and referrals are made to support services are made.

Section Responsible for Implementation:

Community Policing and Training Section

Key Contact:

Yvonne Niego

Groups/ Agencies/ Key Partners Involved:

  • community groups - consultative (information sharing)
  • community groups - cooperative (direct involvement)
  • civilian governing authorities (e.g., police services board) - consultative (information sharing)
  • civilian governing authorities (e.g., police services board) - cooperative (direct involvement)
  • other government departments/agencies - consultative (information sharing)
  • other government departments/agencies - cooperative (direct involvement)
  • academic institutes (research & evaluation) - consultative (information sharing)
  • academic institutes (research & evaluation) - cooperative (direct involvement)

Level of Involvement (consultative - information sharing) and/or cooperative - direct involvement):

RCMP "V" Division is involved in the development of the Nunavut version of ASIST, both through consultations and cooperation efforts. The Division has membership on the Embrace Life Council (a non-profit charitable organization with the sole mandate of suicide prevention) and an Implementation Committee that oversees the Council’s action plan. In the communities, all of the police detachments collaborate with the Arctic College outlets to ensure officers receive training and are aware of all the points of referral available within the community.

Amount of Time Initiative has been in Place:

The Uqaqatigiiluk version of ASIST has been ongoing since 2009.

Reason for Undertaking the Initiative:

Suicide prevention is a priority for the Nunavut Government as the majority of deaths in the territory are the result of suicide. The cost of suicide to society cannot be measured fully, as the loss goes beyond the mere financial output.

Resources Required to Implement this Initiative:

Several agencies covered the cost of setting up the program: the Embrace Life Council (a non-profit charitable organization with the sole mandate of suicide prevention), Nunavut Arctic College (supported by the Department of Education), as well as the federal and territorial health departments. LivingWorks Education Inc. provided the initial training.

Method of Implementation:

ASIST is a highly regarded suicide prevention model that suits Nunavut needs. LivingWorks Education Inc., based out of Calgary, conducted the bulk of the initial training until Nunavut developed local ‘train the trainers’ program. Capacity now exists for the Arctic College to run the program.

Key Outcomes of the Initiative:

In the absence of the Nunavut version of ASIST, clients with suicidal thoughts would be brought to the attention of local medics and transported out of community to one of the two hospitals in the territory. Alternatively, these individuals would be evacuated by air (medevac) to southern institutions in one of the provinces to receive assistance or treatment. Through the Nunavut version of ASIST (once suicidal ideation is recognized), police officers and other key partners will be better equipped to:

  • deal with clients at a local level;
  • identify the issues that the client needs to work through; and
  • work with the client to identify solutions to the client’s issues.

Availability of a Communication Strategy:


Key Messages used to Publicize the Initiative:

Some work has been done by the Embrace Life Council to promote “Breaking the Silence” through the ASIST initiative, with the Artic College now owning the program. There is an ability to promote this initiative within each and every community through local learning centres, in the appropriate languages of the territory. Resource pocket cards are produced and distributed listing key resource contacts in the community. Another message is simply that this training exists for frontline resource persons to equip themselves with knowledge of suicide prevention techniques.

Forms of Evaluation by which the Initiative will be Assessed:

  • formative
  • summative
  • qualitative
  • Rothmans 4 Phase/6 Stage social research & development method

Evaluation Completed or Community Feedback Received:


Summary of the Outcomes:

The Nunavut version of ASIST has been evaluated at the local level and is assessed on a workshop-by-workshop basis by both participants and trainer.

Summary of the Performance Measure Data Collected:


Economics of Policing Pillars:

Further Details:


Additional Comments or Suggestions:

The high availability of firearms in each and every home in Nunavut, combined with the high volume of suicide, requires police, as first responders, to effectively support suicidal individuals upon first contact. The ability to identify the risks and issues involved in a particular situation will allow an officer to work and identify potential supports within the community.

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