October 8, 2015 7:01 pm

‘Emergent Gatekeepers’ suicide prevention training model; new to B.C.


B.C Health Minister Terry Lake announced a suicide prevention training model today to educate and support community members “in a role of trust” about the issue.

The announcement came just two days before World Suicide Prevention Day and in the midst of Mental Health Awareness Week in B.C.

The “Emergent Gatekeepers” training model will educate community members province-wide to become ‘suicide-alert helpers’ as they assist those in need of support.

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Lake says the province hopes to train 20,000 ‘gatekeepers’ by 2018, with financial assistance provided by the province.

“Each year, suicide claims the lives of more than 3,500 people in Canada. In B.C., we lose an average of 500 people per year. On behalf of our Premier Christy Clark, I’m pledging $3 million to the Canadian Mental Health Association – B.C. division, to create a community-based suicide prevention program.”

The training program will teach people how to identify a mental health emergency, get individuals at risk the help they need and determine the most appropriate referral source.

Of particular importance to Alice Kendall, executive director of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, is when help will actually be received by those at risk. In Kendall’s opinion, prevention needs to start before suicide is considered.

“The critique is putting resources at the very end of the line…We need to go beyond that, before they get to suicide,” she says.

READ MORE: New allegations of improper mental health care at Abbotsford hospital

Kendall also says that a broader view of what is needed to support people with mental health issues needs to be addressed. These issues include poverty, access to adequate housing — and in the case of women, violence.

Kendall’s sentiments are echoed by registered clinical social worker, Linda Dame.

“There are a lot of private services that are available, but most people are underserviced and cost is a barrier.”

Although Dame worries that a ‘gatekeeper’ title might perpetuate an ‘us vs. them’ dynamic between “those at risk” and “those in trust,” she says the community at large needs to take action against mental health stigma.

“We all have a responsibility to be aware of each other’s mental health. But expecting people with minimal training and intervention skills to be able to go into complex situations and tweeze out what is needed and why, is completely oversimplifying what is needed in mental health.”

READ MORE: Mother of teenager who died in MCFD’s care in August speaks out

For additional information and support, a province-wide suicide prevention line is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).


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