Suicide intervention training numbers in La Ronge area called an 'inspiration'
Rate of training in La Ronge area said to be similar to that seen at U.S. military installations
A social enterprise that's billed as the world leader in suicide intervention training says a northern Saskatchewan community is churning out rarely-seen training numbers.
LivingWorks provides life-saving intervention skills through programs that include Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and safeTALK.
Spokesperson Owen Stockden said the La Ronge area—including the Town of La Ronge, the village of Air Ronge and the adjacent Lac La Ronge Indian Band reserves—has "very high" training densities of both programs.
"You'd see one-in-six or one-in-seven people having attended a LivingWorks program in the region," he said. "And compared to the national average, where that number would certainly be a lot less than one-in-a-thousand, that's pretty remarkable."
The most conservative estimate would be that there have been over 520 interventions as a result of the training in La Ronge.- Owen Stockden
Stockden said the rate of suicide intervention training in the greater La Ronge area on a per capita basis is similar to what would be seen at military installations in the United States.
"For per capita numbers of training, what we're seeing here in La Ronge is really quite remarkable," he said. "And certainly the first time that I've seen that kind of density of training in a community of this size."
Since 2014, 370 people in the La Ronge area have received ASIST certification, while another 198 have received safeTALK training.
It means about nine per cent of the community's population has received some sort of suicide intervention training in the last five years alone. In Saskatoon and Regina, the figure is closer to one per cent.
Josy Roske is the Education Superintendent at the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, and also an ASIST trainer who has done several trainings in the La Ronge region over the last few years.
Roske said following the October 2016 suicide deaths of four girls in the La Ronge and Stanley Mission area, she remembers bringing up local training during a presentation to a post-secondary institution.
"Rather than always hiring trainers from down south to bring them up to La Ronge to do the training for us and charging us high rates, I said, 'Let's build capacity in the north so that we have our own trainers in the north where we can train our own people,'" she said.
Most of the safeTALK training in the La Ronge residents has happened in the last two years, while 193 area residents have received ASIST training during that time period.
Roske said, based on the feedback of the trainees, she believed all the suicide intervention training was making a difference.
"When they're done the training, often times they say, 'Thank you so much. I feel so much more confident now in being able to talk about it, I know it's OK to talk about suicide, I know it's OK to say the word 'suicide.' And so I feel better prepared now to help my family, or to help my friend, or to be able to have a kid, a student in the classroom come and talk to me.'"
Stockden said studies have shown that only about 30-35% of participants report feeling ready to carry out an intervention prior to ASIST training, while the number is typically over 90% afterward.
Impact of training difficult to measure
His organization has training data for the La Ronge area dating back to 2003, but he said it is difficult to track interventions because it's something people often don't feel comfortable talking about.
However, based on data from previous studies, he said one can expect a certain number of interventions in areas with a high density of training.
"The most conservative estimate would be that there have been over 520 interventions as a result of the training in La Ronge," he said. "The actual number is likely a lot higher, since that study only looked at the first three months after training."
"It's an inspiration," he said. "And it's encouraging as we work to bring these kinds of skills to communities everywhere."
If you need help, 24-hour support is offered seven days a week on the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310, and the 811 Access HealthLine at 811 or 1-877-800-0002.
The Prince Albert mobile crisis line can be accessed at 306-764-1011 from 4 p.m. until 8 a.m., and runs 24 hours on weekends and statutory holidays.
With files from Olivia Stefanovich.