The Simcoe County District School Board north of Toronto takes students’ mental health seriously and uses an integrated approach when tackling suicide awareness and prevention. By offering opportunities for staff and students to complete LivingWorks programs such as safeTALK or ASIST, they are working towards identifying and responding to suicide concerns sooner.
This approach of learning to identify the risk of suicide, talking about it, and connecting with support to keep school communities safer came about several years ago as part of a pilot project that focused on school mental health. Several schools in the board have trained educators in LivingWorks safeTALK and ASIST, and students in LivingWorks safeTALK. Now each of the 14 secondary schools in the SCDSB have at least one ASIST-trained person on staff and there are opportunities across the board for students to get training in LivingWorks safeTALK.
Danielle Mink is the mental health leader for the school board. She says the main goal is to have a suicide-safer community. “The more people that we can educate about how to recognize that someone is having thoughts of suicide and how to have a conversation that links them with the supports needed the better, and that’s really what we’re looking for.”
The board is a proponent of evidence-based programs that ensure staff know their role in supporting the well-being of students and possessing the ability to recognize when students are struggling with mental health concerns. LivingWorks fits this bill nicely, as what many educators know, and where LivingWorks safeTALK comes into play, is that students often turn to their friends and respected teachers, coaches, or school support staff when they’re struggling.
Here’s how one student described the training, “If everybody in our community knew the skills from safeTALK as a whole, we might be able to identify or approach the people that may be having thoughts of suicide and hopefully prevent it before it happens.”
Danielle Mink noted looking over student evaluation forms, “The feedback was phenomenal. What we heard from students is that they are having these conversations anyways but don’t really know what they’re doing, or what to say, or how to help. So after having safeTALK, what they did say is that they at least had a language—they knew what to say and they knew where to go to connect someone to support and that was really the extent of what we wanted them to learn about.”
After looking at comments from educators taking LivingWorks ASIST, the board opened up training to interested parents. Danielle explains why, “The feedback we got from adults is that everybody needs to take this—it helps with confidence and with skill building and it’s not something that they get training in elsewhere. So certainly, for those that we have trained the feedback has been quite positive.”
Watch the video SCDSB did on how they use LivingWorks programs in their approach to suicide awareness and prevention training, and for more information on LivingWorks Network of Safety and how we can help your organization, please contact [email protected]