INTERVENING when a person is in mortal danger is a huge responsibility.
But Civil Defence volunteer Gary Shanahan now feels more confident helping someone in distress having completed the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course organised by the Castletroy and District Lions Club.
The free course is a two day workshop in suicide first aid, which was developed by The Living Works group in Canada in 1983. In Ireland more than 20,000 people from all backgrounds and careers have completed the course, which the Health Service Executive initiative (HSE) began in 2003.
The course trains participants to reduce the immediate risk of a suicide and increase the support for a person at risk.
It also provides opportunities to learn what a person at risk may need in order to keep them safe. Honest, open and direct talk about suicide is also encouraged as part of preparing people to intervene in an emergency.
Gary, who is a Swiftwater and Flood Responder Instructor, joined the Civil Defence in 2010 said, “A huge part of what we do is search and rescue. Often the person we are searching for may be in a distressed state with intent to harm themselves.
“Our goal is to find the person before any harm can come to them. Once found, it is vital to keep the person safe until they receive the help they need. I knew from talking to others that have done this course that it would give me the skills to keep that person safe.”
The Civil Defence is largely made up of volunteers and there are currently between 3,500 to 4,000 of them operating throughout the country.
“Apart from meeting some fantastic likeminded people, I gained a lot from the course. It gave me the confidence to approach a person in distress. The skills I learned gave me a clear end goal and a structure on how to get there. It was emotionally tough at times but well worth doing,” added Gary.
The Castletroy and District Lions Club host the ASIST course annually. It is suitable for all kinds of caregivers, such as health workers, teachers, community workers, Gardaí, youth workers, volunteers, people responding to family, friends and co-workers.
For people who are affected to www.yourmentalhealth.ie for further information on services and also the 24/7 free phone numbers for Samaritan’s 116123 and Pieta House on 1800 247 247
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