Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid. ASIST teaches participants to recognize when someone may have thoughts of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety. Although ASIST is widely used by healthcare providers, participants don’t need any formal training to attend the workshop—anyone 16 or older can learn and use the ASIST model.
Since its development in 1983, ASIST has received regular updates to reflect improvements in knowledge and practice, and over 1,000,000 people have taken the workshop. Studies show that the ASIST method helps reduce suicidal feelings in those at risk and is a cost-effective way to help address the problem of suicide.
Learning goals and objectives
Over the course of their two-day workshop, ASIST participants learn to:
- Understand the ways that personal and societal attitudes affect views on suicide and interventions
- Provide guidance and suicide first aid to a person at risk in ways that meet their individual safety needs
- Identify the key elements of an effective suicide safety plan and the actions required to implement it
- Appreciate the value of improving and integrating suicide prevention resources in the community at large
- Recognize other important aspects of suicide prevention including life-promotion and self-care
- Presentations and guidance from two LivingWorks registered trainers
- A scientifically proven intervention model
- Powerful audiovisual learning aids
- Group discussions
- Skills practice and development
- A balance of challenge and safety
Suicide is a Wicked Problem
Suicide is a wicked problem because it kills and injures millions of people each year, it is a complex behavior with many contributing factors, and it can be difficult to prevent. 1.1 One million people die by suicide each year An estimated one million people died by suicide in 2000; over 100,000 of those who died were adolescents (World Health Organization, 2009). If current trends continue, over 1.5 million people are expected to die by suicide in the year 2020 (Bertolote & Fleischmann, 2002). The world wide suicide rate is estimated to be 16 deaths per 100,000 people per year (World Health Organization, 2009).
For every person who dies by suicide, many more make an attempt
The ratio of suicide attempts to deaths can vary depending upon age. For adolescents, there can be as many as 200 attempts for every suicide death, but for seniors there may be as few as 4 attempts for every suicide death (Berman, Jobes, & Silverman, 2006; Goldsmith, Pellmar, Kleinman, & Bunney, 2002). A recent household survey conducted in the United States estimated that 8.3 million adults had serious thoughts about suicide in the past year, that 2.3 million had made a suicide plan, and 1.1 million had attempted suicide (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Office of Applied Studies, 2009). A survey of Australian adults conducted by the World Health Organization found that 4.2% of respondents had attempted suicide at least once during their lifetime (De Leo, Cerin, Spathonis, & Burgis, 2005).
The devastation of suicide affects many
Suicide is devastating. Not only for those who suffer, are injured, and die from it, but also for their family, friends, and others. The total devastation of suicide is perhaps best summarized by a quote from Kay Redfield Jamison:
Suicide is a particularly awful way to die: the mental suffering leading up to it is usually prolonged, intense, and unpalliated. There is no morphine equivalent to ease the acute pain, and death not uncommonly is violent and grisly. The suffering of the suicidal is private and inexpressible, leaving family members, friends, and colleagues to deal with an almost unfathomable kind of loss, as well as guilt. Suicide carries in its aftermath a level of confusion and devastation that is, for the most part, beyond description (Jamison, 1999, p. 24).
- ASIST info sheet (PDF / 3.9 MB)
- ASIST and the NAASP clinical workforce guidelines (PDF / 257 KB)
- Evidence in Support of the ASIST 11 Program (PDF / 172 KB)
- ASIST Experiences and Recommendations (PDF / 989 KB)
- Review of ASIST (PDF / 1.8 MB)
- The Use and Impact of ASIST in Scotland (PDF / 1.5 MB)
- Gould Study Summary (PDF / 1.9 MB)
- Review of the Operation Life Suicide Awareness Workshops (PDF / 2.4 MB)
- Evaluation of the Scottish safeTALK pilot (PDF / 351 KB)
- safeTALK Manitoba Evaluation Highlights Report (PDF / 122 KB)
- SafeTALK Manitoba Evaluation Full Report (PDF / 1.5 MB)