Every year approximately 33 out of every 100,000 individuals 65 years of age and over die by suicide in Canada. And for every suicide, there could be up to 100 times as many injuries caused by nonfatal suicidal behaviours. The truth is that seniors are one of the most at risk demographics when it comes to suicide, meaning it’s absolutely essential we have open conversations with the elderly and caregivers around suicide and depression. There are resources and training programs to help caregivers, and healthcare professionals that work with the aging, recognize warning signs, and provide suicide first-aid to a person at risk.

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training – ASIST

ASIST by LivingWorks is an interactive workshop in suicide first-aid for anyone 16 or older. The training program and model has been shown to significantly reduce suicidality, by teaching participants effective intervention skills and strengthening community suicide prevention systems. Part of the training also involves recognizing significant facets of suicide safety and prevention, for example, life-promotion and self-care.

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“ASIST was meaningful to me because it taught me how to identify a person’s invitations to talk about suicide and help to keep them safe for now. Whereas before this course, I was extremely unprepared to help people who are thinking of suiciding.” – ASIST Participant

Why Caregivers Should Be Certified

Those who are contemplating suicide often share their intent, which is why being open to a dialogue is so important. ASIST training builds upon connections and communication to help those working with a distressed individual respond appropriately with life-assisting measures.

It’s clear that older adults and those that care for them need to be aware of the risk and potential causes to aid in prevention. It is just as important that caregivers be prepared with the skills to help someone in need when they recognize the warning signs. As the ASIST website states, “The more people in the community who have suicide intervention training, the more likely it is they will be able to identify someone at risk and intervene to keep them safe.”

Caregivers spend considerable lengths of time with their charges and often develop a deep personal bond. As such they will likely be the first person to notice a warning sign – whether it be depression or suicide – and can intercede immediately.

If you are hiring a caregiver for a loved one, look for “Completed the ASIST training (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training)” on their resume or application.

More about ASIST

  • Program duration Two days = 15 hours
  • Participants’ Age: Anyone 16+
  • Available Languages: English, French, Spanish, Inuktitut, and Norwegian; Large print and Braille also available

For information on how to get involved with the award-winning program, visit the website: https://www.livingworks.net/programs/asist/

Additional information and resources for supporting seniors:

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