Roanna Phillips


The mental health side of first aid certification

Why training for scenarios like suicide intervention is important.

When Social Work Diploma learner Roanna Phillips was being considered for her practicum at Sunrise Healing Lodge, her ASIST accreditation gave her a leg-up. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is an internationally recognized suicide intervention course offered at Bow Valley College. For students like Roanna in social workjustice studies, and addiction studies it gives them an advantage when applying for work experience. 
Workshops like ASIST are however available to all learners and staff of Bow Valley College, and encouraged in programs and departments beyond those where it’s mandatory. In addition to ASIST, Bow Valley College offers five other mental health training courses and will be introducing two more in the winter. The institution has implemented many of the courses thanks to the mental health grant the Alberta government gave the post-secondary community in 2017. They are all free of charge.  

Here’s a description of each course.

Mental Health First Aid: A two-day course that teaches participants learn the basics of the types of mental illnesses as well as the skills to help a person cope with mental health challenges.

SafeTalk: A half-day course for suicide alertness certification. You’ll learn how to connect those who are having thoughts of suicide with the proper intervention bodies. Learner Success Services, who offers all courses, recommends SafeTalk as the first one that students or employees take. 

Community Helpers Training: A half day basic peer support training that connects helpers to resources in the community that provide mental health support.

First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training (coming in Winter 2019): Training intended for professionals and community members which helps them assess and respond to disclosures of sexual assault and sexual abuse. 

KAIROS Blanket Exercise (coming in Winter 2019): A participatory lesson on Canadian-Indigenous history. KAIROS Blanket Exercises have been practiced in Canada and around the world since the concept was created in 1997. Russ Baker was recently hired as Indigenous mental health service liaison to facilitate the exercise. 

ASIST: A 14-hour workshop that equips caregivers with the tools to recognize and intervene to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. 

Christie Mellan, mental health outreach liaison at Bow Valley College, says these workshops educate learners on the kinds of resources available to them when they come across challenges in school or home life. 

Roanna, who took ASIST because it was mandatory for her Social Work Diploma, says she’d recommend the course to a fellow student regardless of their academic program, because anyone can be in a situation touched by suicide. “It could be a family member or friend,” she says. “Having that tool in your toolkit is beneficial for everybody.”

Christie also speaks of the value the training has for faculty. “Being in a post-secondary institution, there’s a lot of pressure placed on our students. Staff confront a lot going on with students, we have a lot of adult learners, they have families, they work, if staff aren’t able to deal with the situation in the moment, they know where the supports are.”

ASIST is valued at $250. These workshops are a great opportunity for learners and staff to take advantage of. 

The mental health training offerings exemplify Bow Valley College’s community spirit too —trainers who deliver the workshops include counselling staff and other Learner Success Services staff. A few instructors have volunteered for the role too. 

Learner Success Services is offering the next installment of mental health training workshops starting this Thursday, September 27. To register, visit the training opportunities page

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Posted on September 24, 2018

Story by Julie-Anne Cleyn, photos by Chris Bolin

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