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:
The objectives of the ASIST initiative in Nunavut are as follows:
Community Policing and Training Section
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.
The Uqaqatigiiluk version of ASIST has been ongoing since 2009.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.