Hello and Welcome
My name is Caitlyn Timmings and I had the pleasure of being a member of the truly remarkable Grassroots Training team during the summer of 2011. When I was back to visit this past July, Chris Brown and Miranda Frost (Co-Directors of Grassroots Training) asked me if I’d be interested in writing a blog entry for World Suicide Prevention Day. I said I’d be honoured to and I am. That being said, I’d like to begin with acknowledging that today is the 10th Annual World Suicide Prevention Day! While suicide is often thought of as being a “risk” only known to specific populations, the reality is that suicidal thought and/or completed suicide affects everyone. Perhaps you have personally experienced a loss to suicide, or you may know of loved ones who have, or you may struggle with suicidal thoughts. Perhaps you’re interested in increasing your awareness around suicide generally. Regardless of what brought you to read this post today, we receive your attention warmly and hope this post will leave you with feelings of hope and knowledge that protective factors do exist to mitigate the risks of suicide no matter how intangible they may sometimes feel.
I came by boat from Canada (okay, by plane, but “boat” intrigued you right?) to gain exposure to, and experience with, the health and social care system in the UK. At the time, I was finishing up my Master’s degree in Public Health and was eager to learn more about the programs and services available in the UK in the areas of mental health and substance use. A few weeks after arriving in sunny Brighton, I was contacted by Chris. She asked if I’d be interested in coming for an interview to which I happily accepted. The two most memorable things about this interview were that Miranda and Chris’ passion for suicide prevention and awareness was contagious and that I immediately wanted to learn more. When I was offered a spot on the team, I knew I was in for an incredible summer of learning, growing and experiencing. And I was right.
First Day at Grassroots Training: Met the Team and Geraldine
Being new to Brighton, the journey to the Grassroots Training office on the 1A Whitehawk bus was also new. When I arrived, I was welcomed by warm and smiling faces (the Grassroots Training team) and a giraffe in the window (Geraldine). I was told about the array of training courses offered by the organization, including the two-day ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course, which I would later attend. The ASIST training curriculum was championed in Canada, which made me feel proud as a Canadian, but also a little perplexed that I had not heard of it before now. I started to wonder who else did not know about these valuable resources that are available to professionals and community members alike and glad that there were organizations right there in the community, like Grassroots Training, to deliver them.
The two-day comprehensive ASIST training course was of particular significance during my internship with Grassroots Training. The experience is hard to put into words, but surmise it to say that you begin training as a bunch of strangers who want to learn more about suicide prevention and intervention and leave feeling like a connected group who can make a difference. To learn more about the ASIST training course or other trainings offered by Grassroots Training, click here: http://www.grassrootstraining.org.uk/grassroots_training_suicide_prevention_courses.asp
When I think about protective factors, I think about the power that lies in being loved, being supported and feeling that you are worthy to receive both. Research argues that the fact that completed suicide is a relatively rare event, a range of protective factors must act to mitigate the effects of exposure to risk factors.
As was so eloquently conveyed by the International Association of Suicide Prevention (2012), protective factors occur at the individual, interpersonal, communal and systems levels:
“Among the psychological factors, resilience (the ability to cope with adverse life events and adjust to them), a sense of personal self-worth and self-confidence, effective coping and problem-solving skills, and adaptive help-seeking behaviour are often considered to be protective against the development of suicidal behaviours. Social and cultural factors such as religious and social integration, social connectedness and maintenance of good relationships with friends, colleagues and neighbours, access to support from relevant others and ready access to health care are associated with a reduced risk of suicide and reduced repetition of attempted suicide. In addition, a healthy lifestyle, with maintenance of good diet and sleep habits, regular physical activity, abstinence from smoking and illicit drug use, is also associated with a reduced risk of suicidal behaviour.”
In addition to what the research shows, protective factors can be very individualized. When I think about this, I am struck by how well this personal conception of resiliency is portrayed in the 2011 video developed by Grassroots Training called I am Alive. To view this video, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ELRY_4yYimk
And the Now
It’s really hard to summarize my incredible experience at Grassroots Training in a single blog post. But I can say that I now notice ASIST certification stickers, the language used around suicide, the stigma that still exists and the resources that are so valuable in continuing to raise awareness around this very important issue. It makes me proud to have been a part of an organization that I know is so dedicated to making Brighton a suicide safer community and a leader in making suicide prevention a priority on the health and social care agenda. So on this day of World Suicide Prevention, I’d like to applaud you, Grassroots Training, for all of your past, present and future efforts!