The community gathers to learn suicide prevention techniques

By Sara Miller, intern at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

February 8, 2016 – Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center presented Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) on February 1st and 3rd at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, to the community. The trainers were Katie Giusto and Amy Rickelman of the Iowa Army National Guard. The training was attended by various professionals including a nurse, chaplains, and a suicide prevention specialist. Almost all of those in attendance had at least some experience with suicide, whether in their community, professional life, or personal life.

Suicide is a huge problem in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported nearly 43,000 deaths by suicide in the United States alone, according to the most recent numbers, which are from 2014. Unfortunately, according to the ASIST trainers, there is anywhere from five to 25 percent more deaths by suicide that are not reported as suicides either because of inconclusive evidence that the death was caused by suicide or for other reasons.

Attendees at the training learned how to pick up on cues that may indicate suicidal ideations and how to have a conversation with a person thinking about suicide, according to the ASIST Pathway for Assisting Life (PAL) model. These conversations begin by exploring invitations offered by the suicidal individual (invitations could include: words, emotions, actions, physical appearance/health). The full PAL model includes three tiers with two steps in each tier.

One fact highlighted at the end of day one is being able to recognize when the situation is severe enough to warrant professional intervention, as is the case when the threat of suicide is imminent. If there is immediate risk, the police should be called to handle the situation. If there is not a looming threat, then the PAL model can be put into practice. Day two of the training included conversation preparation, where participants in the training practiced using the PAL model.

For more information about the Center’s upcoming suicide prevention opportunities: dmpcc.org/PREVENT.

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