Suicide prevention training offers CNCC nursing students tools
December 12, 2015
Craig — High suicide rates have plagued Northwest Colorado in recent years, but Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide is working to curb the problem by facilitating the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST.
REPS Executive Director Meghan Francone teamed up with Sandy Beran, spiritual care coordinator for hospice at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, to offer the two-day training to a group of nearly two dozen second-year nursing students at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
The training was required for students in the program, and was an especially tender subject to address following the recent suicide of one of their own peers.
"Our community is very touched by (suicide), it's just one after another," Francone said, adding that Routt County has been especially hard hit by a string of recent suicides.
Colorado had the highest number of suicide deaths ever recorded in the state in 2014 with 1,058 suicides, according to the Office of Suicide Prevention 2014-15 annual report, nearly half of which involved the use of a firearm.
The ASIST training gets students familiar and practiced with an evidence-based prevention model that provides step-by-step guidance for bringing individuals who are at risk of suicide to safety.
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"The thing I learned is so often in life and maybe in suicide prevention is you get ahead of your client," said nursing student Tom Keenan, a Steamboat Springs resident of 35 years, who completed the training. "If you rush it, you ruin it. You have to walk hand in hand to develop that trust so your client will be with you, will know you're on their side and will trust you."
Francone believes the training is crucial for health professionals to have under their belts, and applauds CNCC for including it in their curriculum.
"Nurses are a lot of times on the front line. They see patients that are in and out of the hospital a lot for pain, for illnesses that don't have a physical basis. Depression can hurt," Francone said. "They need to know how to ask the questions. They need to know what to look for to offer support to attending physicians."
As both a health provider and a community member, Keenan hopes to see suicide and mental illness lose some of the stigma attached to it.
"This is an illness. If you're at point you want to commit suicide, it's a mental illness, you're severely depressed" Keenan said. "That shouldn't be stigmatized, you should be able to talk about that."
REPS offers a hotline for those considering suicide — 970-846-8182 — or people can go to an emergency room. Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts is encouraged to reach out to a professional immediately.
A national hotline is also available to help at 800-273-TALK.
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.