In June 2022, ten goons from all points of the compass and all walks of life met in Sydney’s southwest for a two-day workshop in suicide first aid. The commitment this involved is evidence that suicide is at the forefront of our collective conscience, with some attendees travelling from as far afield as Brisbane and Melbourne. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) was everything it promised to be, providing these brothers with both a simple framework and a range of strategies with which to engage with and assist people at risk of suicide.
Created and convened by the good folk at LivingWorks Education, the course could not, sadly, be more relevant to our nation. The statistics are staggering. On average, 8.6 Australians die by suicide each day, with three quarters of these being male… Tens of thousands of Australians (the actual figure will never be known for certain) attempt suicide each year… Suicide is the number one cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 44… The list goes on.
With the standard formalities and introductions out of the way, it became immediately clear that ASIST would neither faff about nor nibble around the periphery. And, given the gravity of the issue at hand, nor should it. ASIST trainers, Ursula and Hickory, canvassed participant goons with regards to our attitudes about and experiences of suicide, and thereafter guided us through a raft of activities practical, incisive and worthwhile. Case studies and role plays constituted the bulk of these activities, as is often the case with vendor-provided training; however, there was nothing approaching run-of-the-mill. It was confronting, but knowing what is at stake, we goons invested big and connected deep
The reward? We learned how to look for the signs. How to start and maintain that vital conversation. How to help an at risk person access support. How to look after ourselves. It was intense. It was invaluable. In the time since attending, this writer has drawn on the learning taken away from ASIST to support three men - directly, but with sensitivity, too.
ASIST. The most valuable two-day course ever.
With thanks to: the LivingWorks team, especially Ursula and Hickory; Rick Polito for making ASIST happen for TGBC; lifeline.org.au for statistics.