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2/4/2014 10:21:00 AM
Williams District takes part in suicide prevention training Jan. 24

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

Williams teachers will be able to better recognize suicide warning signs and get help for at risk students after a free suicide prevention training Jan. 24.

Coconino County Juvenile Probation staff organized the training, and Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) put on the free training for Williams Unified School District (WUSD).

The training, called safeTALK, stands for suicide alertness for everyone and tell, ask, listen, keep safe.

Coconino County Juvenile Probation approached WUSD about the training after the death of an eighth grade student in December 2012. WUSD Superintendent Rachel Savage said school staff is doing everything it can to prevent another death from happening.

"I think kids come to school with a variety of different learning barriers, and teachers and other school staff don't always know the situations that kids are dealing with outside of school. And sometimes those situations come into the school," she said. "And I think it's important for teachers to know how to approach a sensitive subject with a student and to do their best to try to provide support so that student knows that they are valued, they are cared for and what options for help are available."

Brenda Manthei, a mental health therapist with Native Americans for Community Action, conducted the safeTALK training. This is the third year the group has offered the program, thanks to the Garrett Lee Smith grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. So far, more than 800 people in northern Arizona have completed the training.

"A person who is thinking of suicide, there's usually some part of them that wants to live," Manthei said. "And so our training is designed to help support that life, that desire to live."

The safeTALK curriculum comes from the Canadian company Living Works, and is the same curriculum the U.S. military uses for suicide prevention.

The first part of the training has to do with a suicidal person telling another person if they are having thoughts of suicide in a clear way. Warning signs can include carelessness, moodiness, withdrawal, or alcohol or drug misuse.

The next portion involves asking the person at risk if they are considering suicide.

Then, the concerned person lets the person at risk know they are listening.

Finally, the concerned person connects the suicidal person to resources that will help keep them safe.

"Teachers aren't expected to be counselors or life savers, but they're sort of the bridge between getting the child to help," Savage said. "Some people don't know what to say, (and the training) just kind of gives them some strategies to navigate through those conversations."

She added that while the topic of suicide isn't an easy subject to talk about, it is an important one.

"A lot of folks would prefer not talking about it, but because of our increased interaction with kids I think it's important that we're aware of how important our relationships can be with students and how we can be on the front lines with regard to being that bridge to getting kids help if they're showing signs that they may be in need."

Manthei called suicide a public health issue. She compared suicide prevention to knowing CPR and first aid skills.

"You may never use it," she said. "But if you act, you can save a life. If only one person is prevented from planning suicide or completing suicide or attempting suicide, that someone is alive."

More information about safeTALK is available from NACA at (928) 526-2968.

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