‘Safe talks’ at WLU

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Students in the faculty of education at Wilfrid Laurier University completed a suicide prevention workshop that awarded them a certificate that signifies their knowledge in understanding the signs and preventive measures regarding suicide.

“Essentially, it gives our students signs to look for in the kids that they are working with at the schools,” expressed Colleen Willard-Holt, the dean of the faculty of education.

Since the threat of suicide has become such a prevalent theme in schools across Canada, it is important to prepare  incoming teachers with the proper skills and knowledge to help their students through such a situation.

“The overall goal of the workshop — it is called ‘Safe Talk,’ was to raise suicide alertness to everyone,” said Tana Nash, the executive director at the Waterloo region suicide prevention council.

Students are taught how to seek out the appropriate resources in the community they are teaching in, which allows them to be prepared.

Nash explained that, “The idea is not to be a professional, but to learn what some of the warning signs are and to break down the stigmas.”

For example, there is a common myth that you shouldn’t ask somebody if they are thinking of taking their life.

However, Nash stressed that this is inaccurate and the question should be asked in order to give students the help they need.

“It’s not only what to look for but it’s how to react if a student would open up to a teacher and what to say, [and] how to handle the situation,” Willard-Holt said.
She elaborated  the benefits of the workshop and explained that she was “very pleased with the level of discussion and the students felt they were provided with a lot of good information they can take back into the schools.”

This workshop was mandatory for all students registered with the faculty of education.

The Suicide Prevention Council contacted Laurier and proposed this idea, stressing how important it is to prepare  future teachers with the right skills.

Nash explained that she has a colleague in Thunder Bay that lead the workshop at Laurentian, which is the only other school known to take part in a workshop like this.

She used that as a platform and shared the idea with Willard-Holt, who was very receptive to the idea.

Additionally, Nash discussed how important it is to integrate  suicide awareness into the curriculum.

“If we legislate that, then we are ensuring that future teachers have that training,” she continued.

Both Nash and Willard-Holt stressed the significance of mental health issues in schools.

They both added that mental health is becoming more and more prevalent within the student population

“Being a teacher today is very challenging,” said Nash.

Along with the suicide prevention workshop, Laurier students within the faculty of education also participate in a series of similar seminars that focus on other important matters, including aboriginal issues, topics regarding LGBTQ and autism.

Nash explained that there are countries that have completely endorsed this  program, including Scotland, Norway and Ireland. Because Living Work is known worldwide, the students who completed the workshop are now certified internationally.

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