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Interview with Khari Jones

LivingWorks

May 24, 2016

Many know Khari Jones as the digital co-trainer who helps thousands of safeTALK trainers present their training each year. He’s a household name at LivingWorks, and we talk about him as though he’s someone we know and work with: “Khari really helped the participants get focused,” or “Khari really resonated with that group,” or even “Good thing Khari was there!”

Though the co-trainer videos are instantly recognizable, not all of us know the story of the man behind them. Khari Jones has many talents. Prior to recording the safeTALK videos, he had an outstanding career as a quarterback in the Canadian Football League. He has also worked as a broadcaster and is a seasoned stage and screen actor. Following his retirement as a player in 2007, he took on a leadership role and, after coaching with several different teams, now works as the Offensive Coordinator for the BC Lions.

It’s been 10 years since Khari recorded the safeTALK co-trainer videos. This month I had the honor of joining him on the phone for a retrospective interview. Like many who have delivered or experienced safeTALK, I felt a personal connection to Khari, almost as if I had met him before. Just as the developers intended, his videos convey a sense of trust and support: he is our companion and our guide as we work through safeTALK together. Accordingly, talking on the phone was slightly surreal, almost like catching up with a long-lost friend. He is every bit as charismatic and considerate as the co-trainer videos convey, and had a lot to share about his experience collaborating with LivingWorks.

LW: To begin with, did you know safeTALK was still going on all these years later?

KJ: You know, I wasn’t exactly sure it was still going on. I knew it was as of a few years ago. We actually have a neighbour who lives across the street from us who works as a nurse, and she was telling me that they were still using it, probably two or two and a half years ago. It was neat to hear then and it’s neat to hear now.

LW: It’s definitely still going and it’s gaining momentum. LivingWorks trainers have trained over 300,000 people all over the world with that program.

KJ: Wow.

LW: To know that your videos have reached that many people and helped them learn—how does that feel?

KJ: It’s… wow, it’s a little overwhelming, just to think that I’ve been a part of this program. That something I did over 10 years ago right now is still being used and still able to help people. Yeah, ‘overwhelming’ is probably the best word I can think of. It’s neat to be able to put your name behind something that you definitely believe in, and for a cause as big as suicide prevention—I’m glad people have been able to benefit from it.

LW: Can you tell us a little about the original recording and how it happened?

KJ: It’s kind of a crazy story! I had just finished playing football and I was working, I believe, as a broadcaster in Calgary, but I was also working as an actor as well. It was my agent who basically called and said “Okay, so LivingWorks would like you to look at this, could you talk to them?” So I went in for it, not knowing anything about it really, and it started out being treated as an acting job. Once I got in, we had a script to work with, and there was flexibility there for me to to add some personal touches. It hit home for me because suicide, or attempted suicide, has been a part of my family, as it has been for a lot of people. So it was something that was near and dear for me, and it quickly become more than an acting job. I thought about it afterward because it was such an important cause, but to learn that it’s still going on—I didn’t know it would have that kind of staying power!

LW: Does the cause of community suicide prevention still resonate with you today?

KJ: It does resonate, for sure. I learned a lot while I was doing the safeTALK videos. So it’s been something that helped me out personally and helped me deal with issues in my family. Even with my coaching career and how much time that takes up, suicide prevention is still something near and dear to me. Back a few years ago when I was coaching in Saskatchewan, I was able to speak at a safeTALK conference in Moose Jaw, and that was a great experience. Suicide and what we can do about it comes up all the time for people everywhere, so I’m really glad that safeTALK has the kind of staying power that it does.

LW: You’ve really made a significant contribution in that regard. I speak with a lot of safeTALK trainers, and many of them express that you’re really like a companion to them walking into that training room. They’ll say things like: “It was a tough day, it was really tough for that group to talk about suicide, but me and Khari got through it together, and we made it a little easier for them.”

KJ: That is so great. Wow. Wow, that really touches me to hear that. It really does.

LW: So in a way, a lot of us here feel like we know you. We want to know how you're doing. What have the last ten years been like?

KJ: It’s been great, it really has. Since I did the videos in Calgary, I’ve lived in Ontario, near Hamilton in Oakville, in Regina, and now currently right outside of Vancouver in Surrey. My family is great. I have two daughters, thirteen and eleven, and life really couldn’t be better. I’m enjoying the coaching aspect, and I like being closer to family—to my mom and my wife’s family in California. We definitely feel blessed.

LW: That’s wonderful to hear. Anything else you’d like to add or share?

KJ: Please let all the trainers know that I’m doing great and that I’m definitely with them in spirit! I’m glad they’re able to use my videos and feel like I’m in the room. It’s such an amazing cause, and such important work they're doing.

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In the 10 years since they were first recorded, Khari’s videos have helped trainers present safeTALK to over 300,000 people in more than 20 countries and territories. We are deeply grateful to Khari and to the thousands of dedicated safeTALK trainers who partner with him to bring the training to life.