Did you know that every year, more than 3,000 deaths by suicide occur in Australia?
Here at Suicide Programs we are firm believers that the more education people have regarding suicide and suicide prevention, the less likely these deaths are to occur. And we aren’t alone on this, many experts agree that suicide awareness & intervention training is one of the best ways to address these issues.
Below are some key details regarding suicide awareness & intervention training, as well as insight into why it’s so effective.
Suicide Warning Signs
The first step to suicide prevention is being able to recognise whether or not someone is displaying signs of suicidal ideation. Many people who experience suicidal thoughts tend to keep them secret and don’t disclose them to family or friends.
Even if someone doesn’t confide in you directly, you may still be concerned that they may be thinking about suicide by looking at their patterns, habits, and behaviours.
The following are some specific areas you may look at in a person’s life if you think they are considering suicide:
- Do they seem sad or moody lately?
- Are they isolating themselves (i.e., they’ve stopped maintaining contact with their usual group of friends)?
- Are they exhibiting changes in their appearance, personality, or sleep patterns?
- Are they exhibiting harmful behaviours like driving too fast, self harming, or increasing their use of drugs or alcohol?
- Have they recently experienced significant losses or life changes such as losing their job, breaking off a relationship, or coming out as gender diverse?
This last point is particularly noteworthy. If someone has experienced a significant loss or major life change, they may also experience feelings of isolation, hopelessness or helplessness. They may feel as though they are a burden to others and don’t want to cause them additional worry or concern.
These feelings can lead the person to feel worse about their situation and can cause their mental health to continue deteriorating. This, in turn, further increases their vulnerability to suicide.
What Is Suicide Awareness And Intervention Training?
Suicide awareness & intervention training is a type of program that provides individuals with the tools they need to evaluate whether a person is considering or at risk of suicide and provide a model with regards to steps next.
This type of training teaches participants how to speak to someone who is thinking of suicide effectively — using a suicidal narrative rather than a traditional suicide risk averse response. It also helps them create a safety plan to support the person to stay safe and engage in helping seeking, should suicide become a concern again.
Suicide awareness & intervention training is beneficial because it’s individualised. It takes each person’s history, life circumstances, and culture into account and doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing their mental health.
Suicide Risk Assessment vs Suicidal Narrative
Many clinicians, organisations or services complete suicide risk assessments to assess a person’s risk of suicide. These can be important to ensure ethical and best practice procedures are followed and clients, staff and organisations are kept safe.
Sometimes, this assessment will determine the next steps, and help services or clinicians decide how they should ‘treat’ their clients depending on whether the risk is assessed as low, medium or high. However, there is a problem with a standard suicide risk assessment: It doesn’t take into account the fact that each person will come to considering suicide based on their own individual experiences, journeys, values, cultures etc, and also their risk may increase or decrease in very short time frames depending on what occurs or doesn’t occur in their lives.
One study showed that 60 per cent of patients who died by suicide in the first year after discharge were assessed as being at low risk at the time of discharge. This demonstrates the potential danger of relying solely on a traditional risk assessment.
Introducing the Suicidal Narrative
Recently, more effective suicide awareness & intervention training programs have introduced a suicidal narrative as an alternative to suicide risk assessments — or an additional resource for practitioners to utilise.
The suicidal narrative allows a person to speak and express their thoughts regarding suicide and self-harm without the listener directing or managing the conversation. Instead, the listener lets the person’s story unfold.
The suicidal narrative helps a lot of people who are struggling. It releases some of the emotions that have eroded a person’s will to live and gives them more control over their situation.
Experts have also discovered that, often, a person’s situation doesn’t change dramatically after one consultation or awareness & intervention. Suicidal thoughts are always in the background and need to be managed long-term to prevent someone taking their own life.
Is Safety Planning Effective?
Safety planning is another important component of suicide awareness & intervention and suicide prevention.
A safety plan is a document that features a set of individualised steps a person can take when they experience suicidal ideation. It should include the following:
- The person’s unique warning signs
- A list of coping strategies that have worked previously
- A list of support people (friends, family members, mental health professionals, crisis supports, etc.)
- A list of ways that means of suicide can be removed from their environment
- A list of the person’s unique reasons for living
Safety planning can help save lives when someone is thinking of suicide. It gives them something productive to do when they’re struggling and some guidelines to follow. They can access their safety plan document or app, and then take the specific steps they’ve chosen to get through the dark patches of suicidal ideation.
Although safety planning can be beneficial in many cases, it isn’t the be-all-end-all when it comes to working with someone who presents with thoughts of suicide.
Suicide awareness & intervention is more than just having a quick conversation and setting up a safety plan. It’s an ongoing process and requires regular check-ins, continuous support, and a personalised approach.
Final Thoughts On Suicide Awareness And Intervention Training
In the past, suicide training courses have been inflexible. The goal of maintaining program fidelity has come at the expense of the differing cultures and audiences.
In particular, there hasn’t been an emphasis on the importance of following up contact after the awareness & intervention.
Basic suicide awareness & intervention training needs to include a suicidal narrative and safety planning. It should also be flexible in its delivery to accommodate diverse cultures and include a plan for future check-ins.
If you are looking for more information on suicide awareness & intervention training in Australia, or if you’re interested in participating in suicide prevention courses, Suicide Programs is here to help. Get in touch today to learn more.