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Becoming Suicide Alert in New Tecumseth – “You can talk to me”

December 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek

Recently, a suicide alertness seminar was hosted in Beeton at Fire Station #2.

The event, hosted by firefighter and safeTALK instructor Derek Bashford, was a three hour course attended by 24 residents of various ages, looking to discuss the subject of suicide in a safe environment.

The decision to host the local event was made after a local high school student took her own life.

“Further to my post this past weekend about the recent tragedy that has shocked our community, I feel the need to do something to help,” said a post on Bashford’s Facebook page. “In my current work position, I instruct a course called safeTALK, which is designed to teach people how to recognize the signs of suicide, engage someone with thoughts of suicide into a conversation and get them the help they need. I am a member of the Beeton Firefighters Association and after speaking with association members we have decided to run a safeTALK workshop.”

The goal of the evening was to help residents become alert to the signs of suicide – through video footage, role play and a course manual – with the hope that attendees would learn to become comfortable with the word “suicide” itself, making suicide as real as it is, and develop ways to help someone who is thinking about killing themselves.

Although it’s not an easy topic to discuss, suicide has been occurring for millennia and it’s not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse. At any given point, one in 20 people, or five per cent of the population, is thinking about suicide.

Becoming suicide alert gives individuals the ability to recognize the signs of suicide, and connect individuals with suicidal thoughts to first aid resources. The course offered in Beeton did not prepare people to become interventionists, rather helpers to those with thoughts of suicide, offering a stepping-stone to those who can still be reached.

During the course, Fire Fighter Jamie MacNeil was introduced. He is one such suicide interventionist, and a major resource to the community. Bashford said, “Even in this room, based on sheer numbers, suicide could be a thought”. As such, attendees were asked to give Jamie the thumbs-up if they were leaving to use the washroom, otherwise, they were told, they would be followed.

Examples of what leads people to thoughts of suicide, such as life situations, mental health concerns and other factors were discussed. Attendees were asked to follow their hunches to become truly suicide alert. The instructor stated that if someone is talking about killing themselves, they’re probably serious.

They were also asked to start using proper terminology when talking about suicide. Saying someone “committed suicide” is not an accurate statement, as suicide was decriminalized in the 1970s. The proper term is suicided or self-murder – because the difference between suicide and homicide is slight.

From the point of view of the suicide survivor, the course also looked at those who have attempted suicide, and survived. Often, they reported saying, “What have I done?” as soon as the attempt was made, and instantly regretted their decision. Hope for those who are thinking about killing themselves – there’s always time to change your mind, until it’s too late.

safeTALK, or Suicide Alertness For Everyone, looked at ways to talk to someone using four steps of discussion. When an invitation for help is sent, especially combined with recognized suicide triggers, it’s time to have a discussion. And remember, talking about suicide doesn’t lead to suicide.

“Thank you to everyone who attended the safeTALK workshop last evening,” said Bashford. “Due to your generosity, a donation was made in the amount of $350 to the Kids Help Phone. I hope your evening was all that you had expected. I know for sure, today we have a suicide safer community!”

To inquire about future safeTALK courses, e-mail Derrick Bashford at

If you, or someone you care about, has thoughts about suicide, please call 9-1-1 or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.


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