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safeTALK Training: a personal experience

Former Food for Thought fundraiser and 3Ts advocate Kate Leone shares her experience of safeTALK, the internationally certified suicide prevention training, and how she has applied the skills learned in her personal life.

Suicide is scary. It one of those things that seems impossible to comprehend and is easy to miss, dismiss or avoid, whether it’s you personally feeling suicidal or it’s someone you care about.

When it comes to asking the important question ‘ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE’, despite having good reason, fear can get in the way. Fear of the response; fear of our inexperience on the topic of mental health or fear of appearing nosy. But these concerns don’t recognise the relief many people feel when they hear that very question. Chances are, if you sense that the question needs to be asked, then it probably does.

Listen to your intuition and don’t let fear get in the way of helping a loved one, friend, colleague, or other.

safeTALK is not about giving someone an intervention. It is about connecting someone who is feeling suicidal with someone who can mount an intervention and can provide the professional care they need.

Before I completed the safeTALK training with 3Ts, I never believed that it would make such a huge difference in my life. I always considered myself to be aware and open enough to engage in difficult conversations, but one thing I didn’t realise is that, in many cases, being aware and open in isolation is not enough. safeTALK taught me the skills to be able to recognise suicidal behaviour.  It educated me on the likelihood of suicide; provided me with the tools to help someone help themselves and enforced the importance of setting boundaries and self-caring when helping someone going through a really difficult time. 

It only takes helping one person for the 3 hour training session to be more than worthwhile.  In my case, I can honestly say that I used my skills almost immediately after completing my training.  And the experience turned out to be a lot less stressful than it would have been had I not undertaken the training. In fact, I think there’s a very high chance I probably would have missed the signs completely otherwise!

Since completing safeTALK training, I progressed to ASIST training (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills), which taught me how to mount an intervention with someone who is experiencing suicidal ideation.  This not only expanded my knowledge and skills but also enabled me to volunteer with 3Ts in the role of community resource to support 3Ts safeTALK trainer Fiona Lavin when out on-site.

So, what is safeTALK and why should everyone do it?

safeTALK is an internationally recognised half-day training programme. It prepares participants to recognise and engage with people who may be having thoughts of suicide and to connect them to suicide first aid resources.

Take any thoughts of suicide seriously

Thoughts of suicide are dangerous and anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. Although thinking about suicide may be difficult, if not impossible to prevent, averting thoughts of suicide from becoming suicidal actions, is achievable. Not in all cases, but statistically, those who are at risk of suicide actively (and sometimes passively) invite others to help, aid and retain their desire to live. Often, if the suicide decision or plan is discussed with someone in a care-giving and helpful capacity,  this can stop the immediate risk for a period of time and open up an opportunity for them to get help.

This is what 3Ts safeTALK teaches you! safeTALK will provide you with the tools to identify, ask and support – it will help you to HELP someone HELP THEMSELVES. When someone is thinking about suicide, the immediate priority is to keep them safe. Increasing suicide safety is a community-wide responsibility to which everyone can contribute. The more people who are adequately prepared, the more likely we will see opportunities to intervene and respond helpfully.

In 2019, 3Ts trained around 400 people. This in turn has made communities safer and more compassionate as it increases suicide alertness. 3Ts are also partnered with the Dublin Simon Community and provide ongoing safeTALK training to their staff working at the coalface to help people who are homeless or at risk.

How to book a safeTALK

This year 3Ts aims to expand further the numbers who are Suicide Alert in our communities. They welcome any third level institutes, workplaces, community or other groups over the age of 18 to book their safeTALK training session as soon as possible. 3Ts safeTALK training is free.

So, although I first become involved with 3Ts as a fundraising supporter, having progressed through their training and worked with them on various initiatives, I have experienced first hand the benefits of the work they do in the community.  3Ts are a charity and rely solely on fundraising support.  They accept donations of any amount, and sometimes groups even organise fundraisers as a way to say thank you and to support and expand the cause.

I would strongly urge anyone to do the safeTALK Training.  You can learn and practice powerful, life-saving skills in just a few hours.

Kate Leone, January 2020

For further information on 3Ts safeTALK Training, check out 3Ts safeTALK brochure. To book training or make an enquiry, please email Lise Alford on info@3ts.ie or phone +353 1 2139905.

If you have completed safeTALK course and would like to progress on to the ASIST course, check out the HSE Your Mental Health Website for a training timetable in your area or contact your local Suicide Prevention Officer to ask when the next session is taking place near you.