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Guidance center provides an ‘ASIST’ for those wanting to help save a live PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 09 March 2018 10:59

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ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times



In Kansas as well as nationwide, the number of cases of suicide have been on the rise in recent years.

Locally, the Southwest Guidance Center is working to combat those rising numbers with the help of the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) model.

March 22 and 23 at Liberal’s New Beginnings Church, the guidance center is hosting its latest ASIST workshop, and SWGC Director Leslie Bissell said the class complements another class the center offers in Mental Health First Aid.

Bissell said, though, where Mental Health First Aid deals with the field of mental health in general, ASIST specifically centers on suicide itself.

Bissell said participants in the ASIST class will spend the first part of the class spending much time looking at their own beliefs and attitude about suicide.

“We know that can impact one’s willingness and ability to help someone who’s in the midst of having those kinds of thoughts,” she said. 

Bissell said the remainder of the first day is focused on the PAL (Pathway for Assisting Life) model, and the second day of the class gives participants a chance to go into more detail about suicide and opportunities along the way to practice what they have learned.

“By the end of the class, you’re not going walk out with just a bunch of facts and figures about suicide in general,” she said. “You’re going to walk out with some actual tools so that you feel more confident and more able to help someone who’s in the midst of having those thoughts. The whole philosophy of ASIST is that it really is a community problem.”

In this way, ASIST sees suicide as not just one person’s problem or simply something for those in the mental health field to handle.

“We as a community have to make that commitment,” Bissell said. “When someone is in the midst of having thoughts of suicide, we want to help them to be able to move them from that very dark place of thinking that death is the only option, which isn’t necessarily desirable, but it’s the way to avoid all of the pain and suffering that’s associated with living in the moment. It helps move them to a third option, which is staying safe for now.”

As part of the ASIST class, Bissell said local resources are also covered.

“It gives participants an opportunity to build some relationships with different aspects of our community,” she said. “We have a wide variety of people already registered for this particular class. It’s a great way to get to know some key members in your community who are also passionate and want to learn more about how to help people who are having thoughts of suicide.”

Over the last five years, Bissell said suicide is on the rise in Kansas. That rise is estimated to be around 30 percent, and the Sunflower State seems to be following a nationwide trend as well.

“Given that we live in a rural community and we have a lot of older folks out here, white senior males are one of the highest risk populations for the completing of suicide,” she said. “We definitely fall in that demographic. Teenagers are also very high in that demographic. It’s definitely something we as a community have to just wake up and say we want to do something about it, and this class can help do that.”

Bissell said the ASIST class is geared for anyone age 16 and up who has a desire to help.

“If you are someone who especially is connected with people in your day to day job or you just have a lot of influence in your family or in your community, this would be a great class to take,” she said. “We have had a wide variety of community people take it, everything from law enforcement, clergy, housewives, grandmas, aunts, anyone can really take it. It is geared for adult leaders. It’s not something we’d recommend for children or young teenagers at this point.”

With the number of suicides on the rise, the age for adults to begin talking to children about suicide continues to get younger, and Bissell recommends talking to youth as soon as possible.

“I think our culture is definitely going to require parents and adults to start talking about suicide with their children at a younger age than maybe we did 10 years ago,” she said. “We can’t underestimate the power of a celebrity and how that can impact our children.”

With deaths from suicide occurring, demand for a conversation about the issue continues to increase as well. Bissell said now is the time for that conversation to happen.

“We can’t avoid it as a community any longer, so we really do need to just face the dragon and talk about it openly and have plans for it,” she said.

This is not the first time SWGC has hosted the ASIST class, and Bissell said with each passing edition of the class, requests continue to increase as well.

“We’re getting more requests from people just being aware that suicide is a challenge,” she said. “We want to get that resource out there.”

Last year, the guidance center hosted a glo run/walk to help promote the theme of ‘Never Give Up’ on the issue of suicide. Bissell said a walk will not take place this year, but plans are in place for future walks.

“This year, we’re going to put the glo walk on hold,” she said. “We’ve got some other projects that we need to tackle internally this year. I think we’re going to shoot to make that an every other year event and try to make that even more of a presence in our community next year.”

Bissell said past ASIST classes have seen good responses.

“I think for those who take it, there’s a little anxiety, but they always have a really positive experience and report a lot of personal growth and ability to help,” she said.

The ASIST class will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 22 and 23 at New Beginnings Church at 2021 N. Western in Liberal. To register, call SWGC’s Karla Bradley at 620-624-817, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The cost of the class is $60, a price Bissell said is much lower than the classes that take place elsewhere.

“When this class is offered in any other communities, folks pay up to $300 to $400 to take this class,” she said. “We are able to offer through the generous support of several granters. We are able to decrease that cost to our community and only charge $60 for the class. Definitely give us a call. Sign up today.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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