Community Helpers will be offering free suicide prevention training at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre on July 28 and 29.
“I believe there are community helpers everywhere,” says Slave Lake Community Helpers coordinator Devin Bellerose. “The whole idea is to get everybody certified with these discussions.”
The discussions Bellerose is refers to are ones around suicide awareness and prevention. With focus on youth and young adults between 12 and 30 years old.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) statistics on suicide in Alberta include:
Since 2012, the number of suicide-related calls to Health Link has increased. Overall, the number of suicides has also increased, although 2016 was lower than 2015, but higher than 2014.
In 2018, 50 per cent of the 7,254 Albertans who went to the emergency room after a suicide attempt were under 25 years old. Indigenous youth are also five or six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous youth.
Of suicide deaths in Alberta, three out of four of them were men, says ASH. Of these, 50 per cent are men aged 40 to 64.
With COVID-19, “there are a lot of isolated youth, with a lot of time on their hands,” Bellerose says.
“Community Helpers is a community based suicide awareness program,” he continues. It “identifies natural helpers,” community members who people feel comfortable talking to about difficult decisions. The training gives these helpers “skills to better take care of themselves and others.”
The program is funded by AHS, but the coordinators work out of other community organizations. These include community centres, such as the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, or schools, such as Peace River-Peace Regional Outreach Campus.
Since the 1990s, Community Helpers has worked in over 70 communities, 132 schools, and 25 community youth centres, says a Community Helpers Program overview. There are 23 Community Helpers programs across Alberta.
Normally, helpers are identified by anonymous surveys filled out by people aged 12 to 30 in schools, colleges, sports groups, religious groups, or any number of communities. However, with COVID-19 Bellerose wasn’t able to be in the schools to conduct the surveys.
The upcoming training is for “adults who support teens,” says the poster.
Helpers will likely be “drawn to it,” says Bellerose. Anyone who reads the description and thinks “that is something I could definitely use,” should contact him.
The hope is to find people who are currently still in contact with youth and young adults and who would like more training on identifying and responding to mental health concerns and suicide.
The training is two full days at the end of July. The number of spaces is limited to eight to allow social distancing.
While this batch of training is designed for people who currently have contact with this age group, there will be more opportunities for training. Bellerose wants to hear from people who don’t feel they completely meet this criteria, but who are interested.
There are lots of different people who might qualify. These include teachers, police, coaches, helping professionals including receptionists at clinics, health care, local businesses, volunteers in religious communities, leaders of various communities – both cultural (Métis, First Nation, Filipino, etc.) and social (sports, religious, etc.), and the list goes on.
Bellerose is also working on setting up ‘virtual’ training in August on ‘Zoom.’
Bellerose has been the coordinator since fall 2019. This is the first Community Helpers training because of two factors. First and foremost, the program was working on a new curriculum, so this delayed things. Second, up until Bellerose started with the program there had been a lot of turnover for the position.
Bellerose is working to rebuild relationships with schools and other community groups, which has taken some time.
“Ideally, I want to be as involved in the community as possible,” he says.
During COVID-19, he handed out some information sheets at the food bank. As things reopen, he plans to get more involved and continue reestablishing connections with schools, sports teams, community groups, and the various communities in the area.
Along with certification, Community Helpers can do one-hour sessions for sports teams and other groups to help them learn about mental health and suicide prevention.
The certification has nine core modules, but there are 17 modules in total with topics from setting the stage for helping to helping as a process.
Bellerose is available by phone at the Friendship Centre 780-849-3039 or