Workshops tackle the challenges of suicide intervention

Workshops encourage students to reach out to others at risk.

If you believe that a friend may be considering committing suicide, what should you do?

SFU Health and Counseling Services is making new efforts to help people tackle this very issue The department is offering a series of three-hour workshops to raise awareness of the issues surrounding suicide, as well as to provide participants with the skills to effectively communicate with somebody who is considering taking their own life.

Workshop activities will include teaching participants how to ask if someone is suicidal by using a direct question, determining the severity of their intent to commit suicide, and how to effectively refer a person to the appropriate resources for their situation.

At SFU, 11 per cent of students have contemplated committing suicide at some point.

“What people will get out of this workshop is the development of some confidence and being more knowledgeable about how to manage this situation,” said Martin Mroz, director of SFU Health and Counselling Services.

There is also a component on understanding the experience of being in crisis, as well as relating to the person who may be suicidal.

The workshops are open to all SFU students, staff, and faculty, and are particularly geared towards those who regularly interact with students or those who are in a leadership role.

The Support Over Suicide workshops were developed in addition to the pre-existing workshop called Supporting Students in Distress, which provides participants with the tools to respond to students who are stressed and may be experiencing mental health issues. The team also launched the Hi FIVE initiative in 2013, which aims to eliminate stigma towards those who are experiencing mental health distress or illness.

“All this work that we do within mental health is all centred around the elimination of stigma,” said Mroz. “We want to have a community that is free of stigma, connected, and informed.”

At SFU, 11 per cent of students have contemplated committing suicide at some point, according to surveys conducted by the National College Health Assessment in 2007.

“Suicide is the most preventable death,” said Erika Horwitz, the associate director of Health and Counseling. “It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” 

The two explained that the process of direct and early intervention could save many lives. “When you finish taking this workshop,” Horwitz noted, “you will be able to identify when someone is not coping, and is starting to consider ending their lives.”

“That is when you intervene,” she stressed. “By intervening early, we can prevent someone from potentially attempting suicide, which is traumatic [in itself], and also from completing it.”

Horwitz stressed that those who are contemplating suicide but decide not to follow through with it should not be afraid to seek professional help to deal with their stress and burdens.

“A lot of people will refuse to access counselling because of stigma, or because they do not know what counselling is about,” Horwitz said. “Going to a counselor does not mean that you are crazy or you have a mental illness. We are trained to help average human beings.”

The first Support Over Suicide workshop will take place this week on January 30 at 11:30 a.m. at the Surrey campus.