Canadian Mental Health Association on P.E.I. taking suicide prevention training online

Back in March, the Canadian Mental Health Association stopped offering in-person suicide prevention training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, CMHA on P.E.I. is promoting a new online training program.

Island participants can request followup call

CMHA is providing its suicide prevention program online after having to cancel in-person classes because of COVID-19. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The Canadian Mental Health Association on P.E.I. is promoting a new online suicide prevention training program.

Back in March, the association stopped offering in-person training due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was a huge loss to our organization," said Pat Doyle, suicide prevention co-ordinator with the CMHA on P.E.I.

"We were visiting schools and what not in March and it all stopped. So having the option to be able to offer training in a virtual way online has been very helpful."

CMHA partnered with Living Works Education, a training consultation company that helped develop those in-person classes, to make the online program available.

'Recognize the warning signs'

The Start program aims to teach individuals many of the same things the in-person classes did.

"They are learning how to recognize the warning signs of suicide," Doyle said.

"And then how to connect a person that has thoughts of suicide with a resource that can keep them safe."

Once I participated in the training I was totally sold.— Pat Doyle, CMHA P.E.I.

The virtual course is not instructor driven and is module based.

"In some cases they're following a scenario, in some cases they're using voice recordings. For example, when they are asking the question about suicide they have an opportunity to record their voice and go back if they want to re-record, modify it," she said. 

Doyle said the program was piloted by CMHA staff, including herself. She said she was skeptical at first if the online training would be as good as in-person.

"Once I participated in the training I was totally sold. I was very impressed with the calibre," she said. "The messaging was very hopeful and very measured because, you know, when we are talking about mental health and suicide we need a measured approach."

'You can go online and register for the course and within two business days you will receive an enrolment email,' says CMHA's Pat Doyle. (CBC)

Doyle said there is also a safety button when people are taking the courses to connect them immediately with support services if they are "adversely affected" by one of the scenarios presented in the program. 

Some of the scenarios in the program are discussions on suicidal thoughts between family members, partners and coworkers.

Special feature for P.E.I.

The rollout of the program on P.E.I. is unique compared to other provinces. 

Doyle said P.E.I.'s program has the option for a followup call, something CMHA staff on the Island said would be a good idea after taking the course themselves.

"When we did our pilot with our staff and volunteers they expressed to us it was really helpful to have that personal connection after taking the online training, just to be able to flesh out any of those questions to clarify understanding," she said, adding it builds on the training experience.

Open to anyone

Doyle said the course is open to anyone who wants to take it at a cost of $20. Living Works is donating 25 per cent of the proceeds of registration fees back to CMHA P.E.I. to support local programming.

"You can go online and register for the course and within two business days you will receive an enrolment email," Doyle said.

Once someone is signed up and registered for the course they can take it at their leisure.

Doyle said it takes about 90 minute to complete the course, but participants can go back and look through scenarios presented in the training at anytime.

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