Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training in Nunavut

Commitment 4 of the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy (NSPS) states that: “the GN will deliver suicide-intervention training on an ongoing and comprehensive basis… to people who work with high-risk segments of the population, and to others who wish to be leaders in suicide intervention within their community”. Since 2012, The Department of Health has contracted the Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) to deliver the workshops. The training schedule is developed upon community demand across the territory and consultations with the NSPS Partners.

Over one million people worldwide have been trained in ASIST and approximately 1600 people have been trained in Nunavut. There is currently a network of over 5,000 active ASIST trainers internationally and 7 local trainers in Nunavut.

Uqaqatigiilluk! (Talk About It!) is the version of ASIST that is taught in Nunavut by Nunavummiut. It follows the standardized training process whereby participants experience ASIST in a way that honours its history of research and development.


The Workshop

ASIST was developed by LivingWorks Education as a crisis intervention training programs to equip people to respond knowledgeably and competently to persons at risk of suicide. Participants learn and practice skills in identifying and responding to people at immediate risk of suicide.

Just as "CPR" skills make physical first aid possible, training in suicide intervention develops the skills used in suicide first aid. ASIST addresses caregiver attitudes towards suicide since these personal elements affect willingness to help and the effectiveness of the help. It also explores options for linking people with resources for ongoing help.

The persons best able to provide suicide first aid are the persons others turn to in times of trouble. Such persons are typically called caregivers or gatekeepers.

ASIST requires full 2-day participation. Workshop participants leave feeling willing, ready and able to intervene to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. 


Important information for participants

Learning process

  • ASIST is based on principles of adult learning: it values the experiences and contributions that participants bring and encourages people to share actively in the learning process.
  • Participation is encouraged and all participant contributions are taken seriously
  • To protect the balance between safety and challenge, ASIST is delivered in a way that provides both whole group and workgroup opportunities. Participants need not disclose personal experiences in the whole group.
  • A video called “Cause of Death” is shown to provide a common starting point for the discussion of attitudes.
  • Two versions of a different video called “It Begins with You” are shown to illustrate the 1) structure and 2) process of a suicide intervention.
  • Videos were filmed in Nunavut with Nunavummiut actors. Participants are warned that they may know some of the actors personally, and that it may be difficult to see them in a role either as a person at risk or a helper in the context of suicide.


Workshop standards

  • The workshop takes place over two consecutive days for a total of 15 hours. Participants must arrive on time and attend every part of the workshop in order to benefit from the workshop experience and to receive their course completion certificate
  • Workshops have a minimum of 2 active trainers present for the entire two days
    • If there are over 20 participants, three trainers may be required
    • For 31 or more participants, 2 separate workshops are recommended
    • Only the ASIST Coordinator or a third trainer may be in attendance as an observer
  • A list of resources is provided to participants and access in the community is discussed
  • Participants receive a certificate of completion, a workbook, wallet card, DVD, and removable stickers.


ASIST trainers

  • All ASIST trainers have completed the standardized training course version 10.6
  • Currently, the course is offered in English. Simultaneous translation in Inuktitut is offered whenever possible, with caution due to the risk of vicarious trauma for the interpreter.
  • ASIST trainers maintain their active status by presenting a minimum number of workshops per year and reporting on their workshops back to LivingWorks.
  • LivingWorks Education provides ongoing support to all active trainers.
  • Coaching and mentoring is provided to trainers needing additional support.