By Will Johnson, The Nelson Star
The Kootenay Lake School Board heard a presentation from Dr. Todd Kettner on Tuesday, updating them on the multi-year initiative to train the Kootenay community about suicide intervention.
“We’re trying to make a suicide safer community,” said Kettner. “It’s about building a knowledge base and an awareness base and a skill set. We want to have more individuals that can be turned to in times of need.”
Kettner said troubled youth often turn to people other than teachers and parents, and that helping them will require a multi-agency community collaboration.
This is all part of the Applied Suicide and Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) the district has been providing to staff members and community partners in Nelson, Slocan Valley and Creston.
“We’re working towards assisting life. We want to help them come up with a good plan. It’s about first aid. It’s not about therapy or about helping them through their depression, it’s suicide first aid.”
Kettner noted that some in the room, including Superintendent Jeff Jones, had already taken the training.
The training includes testimonies from police, individuals with lived experience and mental health professionals. Kettner said community organizations like Nelson Youth Soccer have also gotten involved.
“They came back to us and said ‘can we train all our coaches?’ We thought that was great,” he said, noting that coach Brett Adams will be receiving the training.
“You’re going to hear the word ‘connectedness’. We’re trying to connect with each other and our outside partners,” Kettner said.
As part of this, the East/West Kootenay Boundary Regional Community Threat Risk Assessment Protocol has been created, which involved both the Nelson Police Department and the RCMP.
“This is something we’ve been working on through our Level 1 and 2 training. When a kid is a threat to himself or others, to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them we activate the process,” he said.
Kettner said we’re in the midst of a critical time, after recent gun incidents in Slocan and Ottawa that were covered in the media.
“It’s always a critical period after high profile events when there’s high profile media coverage. If they’re already at the tipping point and they see it, it might push them over.”
Kettner said they’ve reviewed the files of 13 potentially suicidal students since they began this training.
“All the kids are doing as good or significantly better. We’ve had no further threats in any of the cases, and we’ve been following up.”