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CAOT Leads the Way

News Release

March 3, 2016

CAOT leads the way in training occupational therapists in suicide intervention and prevention

GUELPH –The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) will be training thirty occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and students in a suicide intervention framework.

CAOT, is partnering with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) and the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington Dufferin (CMHA WWD) to provide Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) for these 30 individuals.  ASIST is an internationally recognized, accredited two-day suicide skills training workshop. The CAOT is listening to the members and students of their association who have been requesting this training following a survey sent to occupational therapists across Canada and a three hour panel discussion on the needs of suicide prevention skills at the CAOT national conference in New Brunswick in the spring of 2014.

Suicide prevention training for occupational therapists is not currently mandated in Canada, despite the increasing numbers of suicidal ideation, attempts, and completed suicides within the province. Training and education for people who come in contact with high-risk individuals has been shown to be an effective suicide prevention intervention.

“Occupational therapists often find themselves in positions where they are working with individuals who are struggling with thoughts of suicide” says Janet Craik, Executive Director of CAOT.  It is important for occupational therapists to receive best practice training in suicide prevention. Being prepared with awareness, knowledge, and suicide intervention skills is a critical step in equipping our occupational therapists with suicide prevention and post-vention skill competencies so that we can help the thousands of Canadians we serve.”  Kim Hewitt, an occupational therapist and ASIST trainer explains.  “As an occupational therapist, my main goal is to reduce barriers interfering with optimal living so that people can live their most full life, enabling individuals to be the people they aspire to be, in the roles they desire while doing the things they need and want to do.”  She goes on to further add, “suicidal ideation and suicide are clear obstacles to living one’s best life, therefore learning and applying suicide intervention skills are essential to my occupational therapy practice.”

Tana Nash, Executive Director of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, says that CAOT is leading by example. “We applaud CAOT for providing this necessary training and it is our hope that other professional associations offer this practical training to members.”  Acting Executive Director of CMHA WWD Helen Fishburn adds, “The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington Dufferin is pleased that the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists are taking the steps to equip occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and students with suicide intervention tools. Being trained in ASIST will help these individuals recognize and review risk, and intervene to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. We are very grateful for any opportunity to provide training to professionals and community members in our efforts to prevent suicide.”

On Friday and Saturday March 4 and 5, an ASIST workshop of 30 individuals will be facilitated by members of the Suicide Intervention Community Training Team who are comprised of a variety of local organizations and led by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Waterloo Wellington Dufferin Branch.  Two of these facilitators are themselves occupational therapists.  These occupational therapists and students will learn how to identify people with thoughts of suicide and be given opportunity to learn and practice skills to equip them in delivering competent suicide interventions.

Several suicide prevention and awareness trainings are available for workplaces, community groups, or can be taken as an individual. For more information, contact or visit


Tana Nash, Executive Director,

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

519-884-1470 ext. 2277 or


Pat Underwood, Director of Communications

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists


Helen Fishburn, Acting Executive Director

CMHA WWD 1-844-CMHA-WWD (264-2993) x2029

(519) 835 – 5645 (cell)

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