Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

September 2012

UCO Partners With Edmond First United Methodist for Suicide Intervention Training for Faith Leaders

The statistics are troubling. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death nationally for those ages 15-24. Here in Oklahoma, it’s the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24.

But knowing how to recognize the signs and direct those at risk to the right resources can potentially lower those statistics. Ken Elliott, director of the University of Central Oklahoma’s Violence Prevention Project, believes Oklahoma’s faith leaders can play a key role in intervention.

“Our experience with suicide intervention training tells us that faith leaders are also approached with issues regarding thoughts of suicide, and when approached with a suicidal crisis the general public has the expectation that faith leaders have the skills and expertise to help with a suicidal crisis,” said Elliott.
“We realize that faith leaders are people too, and that they can also use the same kinds of support and suicide intervention skill building as other professionals in helping save a life.”

To build those skills, the university partnered with Edmond’s First United Methodist Church for a Suicide Intervention Training through Central’s ASIST program – Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training – Aug. 30-31. The free trainingincluded 20 leaders from eight different faith communities.

ASIST is a researched-based intervention model that has been adapted and revised for nearly 20 years. The ASIST curriculum has been successfully used all over the world and has been used extensively throughout Canada and the United States.

“Suicide continues to be a part of our life experience despite our best efforts of helping each other deal with fears and feelings. A culture like ours which is diverse and disconnected creates an environment where belonging needs and a sense of purpose are sometimes not met,” said Rev. Bert Potts, D.Min., Edmond First United Methodist senior pastor.

“Sensing no hope, people want to flee from their despair. We, as clergy, have a message of hope to share. This seminar will provide an opportunity to deal with our own fears and frustrations so we can better minister to those in our care."

Elliott added that this training would ultimately benefit the entire community, as it will result in a network of inter-faith partners intent on saving lives no matter the person’s faith or non-faith.

“Central is diverse and inclusive. As a community that actively reaches out to make a difference in people’s lives, we understand that none of us has all of the answers. The central Oklahoma region has been hit so very hard and has been devastated by suicide and particularly hit hard by youth suicide. By working together and partnering with our faith leaders, we not only find kindred souls in doing this critical work, but more importantly we are widening the net of support to all people at risk.”

To learn more about the ASIST program and other counseling services at the university, contact Elliott at 405-974-2388 or kelliott@uco.edu, or visit www.uco.edu/student-affairs/scc.

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