LivingWorks’ long history began when the RTTL partnership of Richard Ramsay, Bryan Tanney, Roger Tierney, and Bill Lang was founded in 1983. These founders researched, designed, and developed what would become the ASIST program, laying the groundwork for all the LivingWorks programs that have come since. In the early days, they also oversaw all aspects of LivingWorks’ administration, from mailing out participant kits to leading T4Ts to managing the company’s finances.
A social worker by training, Richard Ramsay completed his Master’s degree in Social Work at McGill University. Beginning his career at the John Howard Society in Ottawa in 1966, he trained volunteers to work the phones at one of Ottawa’s first crisis hotlines before moving back to his native Alberta in 1969. He was Director of Care at Edmonton’s Maple Ridge Residential Treatment Centre until 1975, when he moved to Calgary to take a position as a social work professor. It was while serving as a professor at the University of Calgary that he became involved in volunteer activities coordinated by the Canadian Mental Health Association and met Bryan Tanney, forming the beginning of the RTTL partnership. Honored with numerous awards for his contributions to social work and suicide prevention, Richard retired as a professor in 2004 but remains an active leader at LivingWorks.
Bryan Tanney began his career in medical school with a focus on biological psychiatry, investigating the connections between mental disorders and biological functions. He became a professor at the University of Calgary in 1975, and began volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s suicide prevention initiatives in Alberta in the late 1970s. It was here that he met Richard Ramsay and the two began to collaborate. He was also a long-time volunteer with the Calgary Distress Centre. As LivingWorks’ Australian operations continued to grow year after year, Bryan eventually made the decision to relocate to Perth in 2000, where he continued to oversee LivingWorks Australia until his retirement in 2012.
A chartered psychologist with a Master’s degree in Education Psychology, Roger Tierney became a counselor at Mount Royal College in 1970. Over the course of his 26-year career at the college, he listened to and assisted thousands of students and staff. While volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s suicide prevention initiatives in Alberta, he met Richard Ramsay and Bryan Tanney, and in the early 1980s the three of them began to work on the program that would become ASIST. Roger took an active and vocal role in LivingWorks’ early days, providing enthusiastic (and often humorous) guidance and support to the trainer network. In 1988 he went on to complete his PhD. Roger died of cancer in 1997, and his loss was felt throughout the trainer network. Many of his colleagues, including the other LivingWorks founders, compiled a tribute for their partner and friend. You can view this memorial in document form here.
Before completing his Master’s and PhD in Counseling Psychology and becoming a counselor at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Bill Lang began his career in education and school counseling. He became involved with the other members of the RTTL partnership when they were looking at a screening process for T4T attendees. He went on to make vital contributions to the earliest edition of the ASIST workshop and every edition since. Bill’s interest in suicide prevention began with his strong conviction that meaningful conversation about suicide could save lives. Since his retirement from counseling he has remained active within LivingWorks and continues to lead the development of new editions and programs.