On Tuesday, September 15, approximately 18 Community members from various Community departments gathered at Two Waters Building A to become ASIST trained caregivers.
Community Members Become ASIST Caregivers for Suicide Prevention
By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

On September 14 and 15, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Prevention/Intervention Program sponsored an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) Workshop at the Two Waters complex. ASIST aims to provide people with the knowledge and skills to recognize and provide appropriate action for individuals who might be at risk of suicide.

Approximately 18 Community members gathered to become ASIST trained caregivers. This two-day training provided the basics to identify and assess at-risk individuals.

ďThis is suicide first-aid training. A lot of people have taken CPR or first-aid training, but they havenít taking suicide-prevention training. This is something that anyone can do. You donít have to be a behavioral-health professional. This two-day training [is] a good model, and anyone can take it and they can make it their own. They can use it at work or with family or friends. Itís a good model,Ē said Derek Patton, M.S., MBA, LADC, MAC, Division Director for Integrated Behavioral Health for the Phoenix-area Indian Health Service.

ďBecause we have a lot of suicides in Native communities, the best people to reach out and prevent suicide are Community members, because a lot of people that do complete suicides are not really connected to Behavioral Health [Services]. The message is that suicide is preventable,Ē added Patton.

Day One featured a session on how to connect with your attitudes about suicide and understand the concerns of persons at risk. Day Two included learning about a suicide-intervention model, as well as practicing this model and a discussion about creating a network for caregivers. Each day consisted of in-depth conversation and learning to address the concerns of suicide here in the Community.

ďI think whatís most important is the value of this training. We teach Community members, family members, neighbors, co-workers and [pretty much any interested individuals] intervention skills. We teach them to learn how to intervene if someone is suicidal. You have the Community taking care of the Community. To me this is very valuable. Itís my passion to see Community members helping each other,Ē said Hilary Cummings, ASIST presenter and executive director of Education Outside the Box.

ASIST is targeted to anyone 16 years and older who wishes to provide first aid to anyone who might be at risk for suicide. One of the programís goals is starting a network of individuals who can provide at-risk individuals with the necessary help that is needed.

According to SRPMIC Behavioral Health staff, some of the main issues within SRPMIC that may lead to suicide are dealing with the foster-care system, children who have to move away from their families, break-ups, not being able to handle intense friendships that form, substance abuse, bullying and, most commonly, financial hardships. All we can do is understand what suicide is, what to look out for, and where to go or whom to call if you or someone you know needs help.

Here within the SRPMIC we may not hear of it as often, but thatís not to say suicide isnít a problem here in our Community. Some of us may have personally dealt with a loved one who has attempted suicide or perhaps lost their life to suicide. In one way or another, it impacts all of us, like a ripple effect. According to the Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition, there are an estimated 25 attempts for every suicide completion in the nation, and each suicide intimately affects at least six other people.

ďIíve learned how to recognize if a person is at risk for suicide [from this training]; maybe some of their actions, like if theyíre withdrawn, or even how to distinguish someone whoís depressed and suicidal,Ē said youth development specialist Amber Brown, who attended the training. ďI learned to key in more on their actions. This training is like a refresher for me, but itís definitely helped me recognize more actions for some of the people Iím concerned about. With past situations, Iíve learned that suicide is preventable.Ē

ďItís really about awareness. [Individuals who have attended the ASIST training workshops] have come to us and said it has worked with a few people. ASIST is a proven model; people like it and they use it. We know that a lot of these communities are really small and suicide affects the whole community. We know that itís preventive,Ē said Patton.

ďThe behavioral-health community doesnít have enough people out there to help everyone. Thereís a lot of stigma about mental health, culture and tradition in many Native cultures. So if we have more people in the Community that can be there to help one another and do the first-aid for suicide, then we can ultimately help more people. Research has shown the value of doing this. The more people we can teach this to, the more people we can help. Weíll have more eyes, ears, minds and hearts on the job to help each other,Ē added Cummings. ≠

If you or anyone you know is experiencing severe depression or suicidal feelings, call the SRPMIC Central Intake Center to set up an appointment for intake and assessment at (480) 362-7350. If itís an emergency, call the 24-hour Crisis Intervention service by dialing 911.

ASIST aims to create suicide-safer communities. For more information about future ASIST training here in the Community, contact Community Health Educator Elma Dawahoya by phone at (480) 362-5447/5616 or by email at

Warning Signs
Someone might be suicidal if he or she:
* Talks about committing suicide
* Has trouble eating or sleeping
* Experiences drastic changes in behavior
* Withdraws from friends and/or social activities
* Loses interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
* Prepares for death by making out a will and final arrangements
* Gives away prized possessions
* Has attempted suicide before
* Takes unnecessary risks
* Has had recent severe losses
* Is preoccupied with death and dying
* Loses interest in his or her personal appearance
ē Increases use of alcohol or drugs

Be Aware of Feelings
These are some of the feelings and behaviors expressed by persons who may be contemplating suicide:
* Canít stop the pain
* Canít think clearly
* Canít make decisions
* Canít see any way out
* Canít sleep, eat or work
* Canít get out of depression
* Canít make the sadness go away
* Canít see a future without pain
* Canít see themselves as worthwhile
* Canít get someoneís attention
* Canít seem to get control

Suicide-Prevention Resources
Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition,

National Institutes of Mental Health, Suicide Prevention,

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,

First Annual SRFD Stair-Climb 9/11 Remembrance
Show Your Community Support at Miss Indian Arizona Pageant
Community Members Become ASIST Caregivers for Suicide Prevention
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month