Blog: Let's Talk About Suicide Alertness
Barnardo's Education Community Project Worker, Chris Paul, blogs about his journey to becoming more informed as a suicide prevention practitioner and the importance of being alert about suicide within education and wider communities.
Over the last month I have been on a powerful and emotional journey to become a facilitator and trainer in delivering crucial suicide alertness training to others across the United Kingdom.
The initial two-days training came in the form of ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), a course that I had previously undertaken but the certification had expired through the pandemic. This two day training course, delivered via the globally recognised LivingWorks, is crucial for practitioners who want to travel on the journey of being more suicide alert, helping to create suicide safer communities.
This 2-day section involves you digging in deeper to your own experiences of suicide and any exposure you have had to it through your own life, whether it be in a personal or professional capacity. This cohort shared multiple experiences and the emotions and experience within that room helped carry the 2 days into something special. By the end of this process, you have the knowledge and the understanding of the PAL (Pathways for Assisting Life) model, allowing you to facilitate safety discussions with those considering suicide.
Now that we were given that foundation knowledge, our next step was returning a fortnight later to participate in Training for Trainers for safeTALK (Suicide Alertness for Everyone – Tell Ask Listen KeepSafe) over a 2-day period. These two days were emotional and powerful again, revisiting the previous training and initially participating in a safeTALK session, lasting 3 and a half hours. The focus then quickly turns to learning the safeTALK model and delivering it to the group.
safeTALK is an excellent resource and model for people to be aware of. The shorter duration of a half day means that it is more accessible and allows for people to fit this in with their likely busy schedules. The principles of safeTALK are:
SAFE: Suicide Alertness for Everyone – the course aims to provide you with a level of understanding and alertness that you may be open to the possibility that someone else may be considering suicide.
T: Tell – this provides the opportunity for someone to tell you that they are having thoughts of suicide, with a focus on how you would feel if someone spoke to you about this thought or plan
A: Ask – this section explores your thoughts and feelings of asking someone if they are thinking about suicide. This is an important section as it may be the first time people have considered asking someone this important question.
L: Listen – this area focuses on the importance of listening to somebody and avoiding trying to immediately fix or dismiss their thoughts of suicide. Listening is such an important aspect of this training
K: Keepsafe – the final stage of the process and very important. Keeping people safe is a huge part of safeTALK, linking someone with thoughts of suicide to a KeepSafe connection could be lifesaving. We have prepared a KeepSafe Connection Wakelet on our website for you to use.
It really is a straightforward and excellent model. I would encourage anyone who has thoughts of supporting others who are suicidal to have a look at the LivingWorks website tofind if there are any training opportunities near you. The more people we have in ourcommunities that are alert to suicide, the more suicide safer communities we will have. Wehave attached a number of KeepSafe Connections at the bottom of this blog.
* Disclaimer – this model is not to be followed purely from this blog. This is just aguide on what to expect from the training course should you be interested. The steps andthe model are only to be followed after completion of the required training. Please contact LivingWorks or visit their website to find out more about training opportunities in your local area.
KeepSafe Connections are Able, Approachable, and Available to help with suicide. They know how to do suicide first aid (trained in suicide intervention). Different kinds of helpers in your community may have this training but some may not. It is best to check before adding them to this list.
If you are concerned that harm to yourself or others is occurring or about to occur, call the police and ambulance services
Explain your concerns in as much detail as possible to allow the call handler to provide the most appropriate response.
Accident & Emergency (A&E)
Anyone can present at A&E if they are thinking of suicide. It may be some time before you are seen so being supported at this time is helpful.
Find your nearest A&E here:
If you need medical help but it is not an emergency
Confidential emotional support 24 hours 7 days a week
You can talk about your thoughts of suicide.
Freephone: 116 123 (freephone)
Calls to this helpline number do not appear on phone bills.
Out of hours General Practitioners (GP)
If you need medical help or advice when your GP surgery is closed,
Tel: 111 (free to call from landlines and mobile phones.)
Prevention of young suicide, for under 35s
Confidential support for any young person (under 35) at risk of suicide, or anyone worried about a young person at risk of suicide.
Tel: 0800 068 41 41
Calls and texts are free from all providers and do not appear on bills
Confidential support from LGBT+ Volunteers
10am-10pm every day
Tel: 0300 330 0630 web: https://switchboard.lgbt/
Confidential emotional support for men
Help and advice about a wide range of issues
Anyone under 19 in the UK
Childline is free, confidential and available any time, day or night.
Phone, by email or through 1-2-1 counsellor chat.
Bereavement by suicide
For a range of resources
The National Rape Crisis Helpline,
12 noon-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year.
FREEPHONE 0808 802 9999,
Drug, Alcohol and Mental Health support
Offers an online webchat feature with trained psychologists
Monday - Friday: 10am-4pm, 6pm-9pm
Sat & Sun: 11am - 4pm
Mobile phone app
The Stay Alive app is a suicide prevention resource for the UK, packed full of useful information and tools to help you stay safe in crisis. You can use it if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else who may be considering suicide.
24/7 text service offering free and confidential support
Text “shout” to 85258