The Edmond Sun


August 27, 2012

Faith leaders to gather for suicide prevention training

EDMOND — An Edmond church and the University of Central Oklahoma have organized inter-faith suicide prevention training to address what is the second-leading cause of death for youth age 10-24 in Oklahoma.

The free training, which will include leaders from a variety of faith communities in the metro area, will be Thursday and Friday at Edmond’s First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Hurd St. It will utilize UCO’s Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.

Various interest groups, including UCO, Edmond Public Schools, mental health organizations and the Edmond Police Department have been monitoring the local situation. The year has seen suicides involving both youth and adults.

“The continuing education for our community is paramount,” Edmond Police Maj. Steve Thompson said. “Suicides and attempted suicides remain high, and we need to constantly get the tools out to the members of our community to help them deal with this issue.”

Ken Elliott, director of the University of Central Oklahoma’s Violence Prevention Project, said the metro area has been hit hard and been devastated by suicide, and particularly hit hard by youth suicide. Partnering with faith leaders is good for networking in doing this critical work, Elliott said. More importantly, the net of support for individuals at risk is being widened, he said.

Faith leaders can play a key role in intervention, Elliott said. Although the manner in which diverse faiths honor and practice their spirituality can differ greatly, the pain and confusion associated with suicide is a shared and common experience to people of all faiths, he said.

“Central is diverse and inclusive,” Elliott said. “As a community that reaches out to make a difference in people’s lives, we understand that none of us has all the answers.”

First United Methodist Senior Pastor Bertha Potts said many individuals are feeling discouraged and hopeless and want to end the pain. Leaders in the faith community encounter many people in numerous life situations and they have a witness to make, Potts said.

“This is a starting place, not an end-all,” she said.

Elliott said UCO’s Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is a research-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.

Knowing how to recognize the signs and direct those at risk to the right resources can potentially lower the statistics, Elliott said. 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 belief system, he said.

Anyone can be at risk, according to information from UCO. Men, women and youth of all ages, all occupations, all socioeconomic groups and all faiths are at risk. There is no guarantee of safety from suicide. The key to suicide prevention is trained caregivers who are ready, willing and able to get involved with each individual at risk — caregivers who can recognize individuals who are at risk and who know how to intervene to prevent the risk of suicidal thoughts becoming suicidal behaviors.

Topics covered will include attitudes and hopes, an introduction to prevention, postvention and intervention, the burden of suicide, connecting with persons in crisis and discussion of feelings, experiences and suicide first aid. Attendees will also explore safety plans.

To learn more about the ASIST program and other counseling services at UCO, call Ken Elliott at 974-2388, send him e-mail at or visit |

341-2121, ext. 108

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