By American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The nation's largest suicide prevention organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, has taken the groundbreaking step in training every Tennessee Highway Patrol officer, and cadet, in safeTALK, a comprehensive three-hour suicide prevention training. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to have their complete highway patrol force trained in suicide prevention.
"The Tennessee Highway Patrol is committed to partnering with organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to better train our troopers on serious matters like suicide," Colonel Tracy Trott said. "Our troopers are trained to recognize the signs of suicide risk through the safeTALK program. The more we can comfortably discuss suicide, the more lives we can save."
Every Wednesday for 32 weeks, from March until the beginning of December in Nashville, TN, 848 officers and cadets were trained in safeTALK. Additionally, some of the senior officers at the Highway Patrol were trained to be safeTALK instructors to assist in this huge undertaking. The total cost of these trainings, between $8,000 - $10,000, was sponsored by the AFSP Middle Tennessee Chapter. Run mainly by volunteers who have lost a loved one to suicide, those who live with a mental health condition and those who have an interest in suicide prevention, the chapter organized Out of the Darkness community walks and other fundraising events to raise the money needed to sponsor these educational trainings.
"Since Tennessee is such a rural state, oftentimes people who live in the state might not have the same access to mental health services. Because of this, these educational trainings are especially important as the Highway Patrol might be one of the few connections some residents in the state have to suicide prevention support in their community. We're so pleased that the Tennessee Highway Patrol made suicide prevention a priority in 2017," said Kat Cloud, AFSP Tennessee Area Director. "We are extremely grateful for AFSP volunteer Shannon Hall who provided the connection to the TN Highway Patrol and for retired Captain Robert Bighem who was instrumental in getting this program launched."
The partnership with the TN Highway Patrol and AFSP is a result of Shannon Hall, the board chair for the AFSP Middle Tennessee chapter who works for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Shannon lost her brother Matthew in 2012 to suicide and subsequently got involved in AFSP shortly thereafter. Hall lives in Nashville, TN.
safeTALK trains members of the community to recognize the signs of suicide and then to take action by connecting those exhibiting these signs with life-saving intervention resources. Since its development in 2006, safeTALK has been used in over 20 countries around the world. The training features four easy-to-remember steps: Tell, Ask, Listen, and KeepSafe.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that's smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.