The findings of a Public Health Agency (PHA) evaluation report on a suicide prevention training programme were today presented at the North South Ministerial Council Health Sector meeting.
ASIST, The Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training programme, has to date been delivered to more than 20,000 people in the Republic of Ireland and more than 11,000 people in Northern Ireland. This two day course, delivered by a wide range of organisations including those from the voluntary/community sector, for professionals and the public helps individuals provide emergency help to people at risk of suicidal behaviour. It also develops a cooperative network among participants, since often many people have to work together to prevent suicide.
Talking about the findings of this work, Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, PHA, said: “Both the PHA and the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), based in the Republic of Ireland, are concerned for any loss of life through suicide and we send our condolences to all families who have been bereaved. We know ASIST training brings a positive element to suicide prevention. Those who have been trained said that the two biggest advantages are that they know when, how and have the confidence to help people who are under pressure and that it helps to build positive links between community and voluntary organisations and the health service. I am pleased that this has been borne out in the evaluation and we hope ASIST will continue to be of enormous benefit and will contribute to a reduction in suicidal behaviour and the tragedy that this brings to our community”.
This evaluation found that within organisations where staff had participated in ASIST training, there were improvements in service development; staff attitudes, confidence and skills in relation to suicide and suicide intervention and in policies and procedures. At a community level, ASIST was found to have contributed to a sense of empowerment through an increased confidence in being able to deal with suicide and suicidal behaviour.
The report also shows that the ASIST model offers a common language, helping communication between the community or voluntary organisations and those from a health background. In fact this training helped to cancel out any differences between those with mental health qualifications and those without, in terms of knowledge, skills, attitude and willingness to intervene.
The study also confirmed that ASIST training was most relevant to those who were likely to be in contact with a person ‘at risk’.
In welcoming the publication of the report Geoff Day, Director of the NOSP, said: “This report is an independent evaluation of the ASIST programme, it has allowed us to demonstrate the effectiveness of the programme in increasing community participants confidence and ability to respond to individuals in suicidal crisis.
He added: “The fact the evaluation was completed on an all-island basis allows the NOSP and the PHA to avoid duplication of resources, improve coordination of suicide prevention training programmes across both jurisdictions and allows us to learn from different approaches used in suicide prevention across the island of Ireland.”
He reiterated the Health Service Executive commitment to the continued implementation of quality assured training programmes as part of Reach out: the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention.
ASIST training is being rolled out in Northern Ireland as part of the implementation of the ‘Protect Life’ suicide prevention strategy, which was published by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in 2006.
A copy of the evaluation report can be found below and in the publications section of this website, by clicking here
Contact PHA the Press Office on 028 9031 1611
Notes to the editor
- In response to the high number of suicides and cases of self-harm in recent years in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, each jurisdiction developed national strategies for action:
- An all-island suicide prevention action plan was developed in 2007 to address issues of mutual interest. It was lead by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland and NOSP in the Republic.
- ASIST was developed in the 1980s by a team of mental health and social work professionals, in collaboration with the state governments of Alberta and California, and the Alberta division of the Canadian Mental Health Association. They created LivingWorks Education Inc as a public service corporation in 1991. Since then, the programme has been delivered through networks of registered trainers in Canada, Australia, Norway, the United States and Europe.
- During the two day ASIST workshop, participants examine their attitudes to suicide, learn how to recognise and review the risk of suicide, and develop new and/or reinforce existing intervention skills.
- The PHA designed and implemented this evaluation and the findings are drawn from a number of pieces of work, including surveys of trainers and participants, qualitative consultation with trainers, stakeholders and policy makers and an independent examination of costs and efficiencies, by Deloitte.