Skip to content

Suicide prevention programs designed for post-wildfire stress

July 24, 2018

By Mike Ziemerink

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

PWRDF previously reported on the important work the Stemete7uw’I Friendship Centre has done for the 100 Mile House community in the wake of the 2017 wildfires. The centre is working with PWRDF again to help with suicide prevention. The area is at risk due to the high Indigenous population and added stresses following the wildfires.

Recognizing the increased risk of suicide, PWRDF provided two Anglican Churches — St. Peter’s Williams Lake and St. Timothy’s 100 Mile House — with $5,000 each to provide suicide prevention training in their communities.

The Rev. Dr. Keith Dobyns and The Rev. Kristen Dobyns are implementing the project.

“Our goal was for each church to host one ASIST course, and then follow-up with several Safe Talk events in each community,” said the Dobyns. “We especially sought individuals who could respond to the increased suicide risk of Indigenous peoples and of middle-aged and older men. We sought to time the ASIST courses for mid-winter, when we understood that suicidality was highest.”

ASIST is a two-day course that educates community leaders and those in helping professions. Safe Talk events are for the entire community and focus on recognizing the signs and risks associated with suicide and provide training on how to refer at risk individuals through the right channels to receive help.

The ASIST course took place in February 2018 and despite a heavy snow and ice storm, nearly 20 people made their way to St. Peter’s. Fifteen participants were in helping professions, five were Indigenous and three were clergy. The St. Timothy’s ASIST course had 12 participants, despite bad weather and scheduling conflicts. However, the course evaluations for both churches received scores of good to excellent.

The project partnered with the 100 Mile House office of the Canadian Mental Health Association who recruited the course facilitators. The Safe Talk courses will take place this October and November in the communities. After feedback from the community, the recruitment for the courses will expand to include other members of the community.