More community members than have attended in past years will attend the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training course May 20 and 21, said the university’s program head.
Monica Kintigh, ASIST program head and adjunct professor of kinesiology, said ASIST will be the ninth course of its kind sponsored by the university.
ASIST is an evidence-based program supported by 25 years of research and is also on the Suicide Prevention Research Center’s list of best practices. Nations such as Scotland, Australia and Norway have adopted it as a national suicide prevention strategy.
“After people go through the ASIST training, they engage in average number 1.2 interventions per month in the 6 months afterwards because of their willingness to ask about suicide and their competence afterwards,” she said. “They feel willing, ready, and able to assist someone because of this. Suicide really is the most preventable cause of death.”
TCU is one of the few North Texas schools that offered the program before the Garret Lee Smith Memorial Act was put into effect in 2004. The act allows schools to apply for a grant of $75,000 for three years to help fund suicide prevention training. The University of North Texas is the one school in the area that applied for the grant.
“As TCU was already ahead of the game, we were not eligible for the grant,” Kintigh said.
The two-day program is open to both TCU faculty and staff and to community members, the latter of whom must pay a $150 fee to participate. Kintigh and community social worker Sarah Morgan will be leading the program this May.
“The funding comes out of the counseling center’s budget, and we also offer it through the Continuing Education program,” Kintigh said. “So there is a fee for community members wanting to participate.”
Kintigh said there are 30 spots for the May program. Half are filled by TCU faculty and staff members and the other half is composed of community members. The program’s goals are to help participants recognize invitations for help from people having suicidal thoughts and to reach out to them to apply a suicide intervention model and link them to community resources for more help.
Resident assistants undergo the program for free as a part of their job training to help them better deal with the issues and well-being of their residents.
Colby Hall Resident Assistant Ashley Hart said she now has more confidence in her ability to handle a situation in which suicide may be an issue.
“It helped me to understand such a high stress situation,” Hart, a sophomore English major, said. “I would say (the program is effective) because sometimes you don’t know when you have to deal with that situation. I’ve had to talk to people about this before I became an RA. If I had the training before it actually would have made it a lot easier.”
Participants discuss their attitudes and experiences about suicide, study the suicide prevention model and practice using intervention skills in both a small-group and large-group setting. They are also informed of various resources they can offer those seeking help.
“We believe that open and direct talk about suicide is one of the best methods of prevention,” Kintigh said. “We know that not all people act on suicidal thoughts, but what we need are people who are trained and on campus to respond to people who need help, so they don’t feel the need to act on those thoughts.”
Along with ASIST, TCU also offers a safeTALK program headed by TCU counselor Eric Wood that is a two- to three-hour program meant to raise awareness about suicide. The safeTALK programs occur whenever they are requested by any group of six or more people and are usually lead by Wood or Kintigh.
“Both programs are effective,” Wood said. “It just depends on what people want. If they want a two-day workshop to help learn about actual intervention or whether they just want to raise awareness about the issue.”