Here are some frequently asked questions about the suicide awareness and prevention workshop—with answers from Walter, the instructor. If you have a question or concern that’s not listed, send it by email!
Who should take this class?
It’s tempting to answer “everyone!” Employees of public school systems are required by law (LD 609) to complete suicide prevention training. This course satisfies that requirement. However, most adults would benefit from attending. (See “What does the class cover?”) Past classes have included volunteers, health care professionals, ministers, and individuals from many different walks of life.
Is there a minimum age to attend?
Not formally, although the material is not geared to young children (under 12). Research shows that teens often reach out to peers in times of trouble, so middle and high school students are important potential participants. I’ve had more than a few conversations with parents of teenagers, suggesting they attend together.
What does the class cover?
Major topics include “myths and facts,” recognizing risk factors and warning signs, basic intervention strategy, resources available, post-attempt strategies, and questions/answers. An important focus is on the basic intervention strategy. Among people who have attended, 95% feel more confident in recognizing risk factors and warning signs; 85% feel better equipped to help someone who displays warning signs or seems suicidal.
What is class based on?
The course is “research based” and most content results from a collaborative effort through the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in DHHS; training offered through partnership with NAMI Maine, The Maine Medical Association, Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving Maine and Maine Primary Care Association. It is not a “touchy-feely” course but is based on facts and empirical data.
Will the class be depressing?
On the contrary, while suicide is a public health crisis, the emphasis of the class is on what can be done and what is being done.
What are some reasons people don’t take the class?
There are probably as many reasons as there are people! We suspect some people do not attend because they do not feel they are qualified to help prevent suicide. Research proves that nearly anyone can provide a basic intervention using simple techniques that include being a good listener.
What are some reasons people do take the class?
Some initially attend because of the legal requirement, but all report the material and experience is helpful and no one has ever said they regret attending. I like the analogy of CPR. When we stop and consider the number of people who are CPR trained and the lives saved as a result, doesn’t it make sense to have a similar emphasis on mental health?
What qualifies you to teach this class?
I am Gatekeeper trained and have completed the required “Train the Trainer” Program conducted by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program. While not required, I am also a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health Specialist for Youth and Adults. I am an experienced educator and substitute elementary school teacher.