After seeing a rise in suicidal ideation over the course of the pandemic, a Winnipeg centre is offering a workshop to give people tools to help their struggling loved ones.

"Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a two-day intensive workshop," says Elizabete Halprin, the Executive Director at Aulneau Renewal Centre. "Although we tend to find a lot of service providers tend to have the training, it's the type of training that can be taken by a number of different people."

Staff that works in health care take this course, but it's also offered to lay people who are looking to help their loved ones. 

"It teaches individuals how to recognize when someone's at risk of suicide or might have suicidal ideation or thoughts. It helps individuals develop skills to know what to say when someone is presenting with suicidal ideation and it also helps to dispel any myths around suicide."

September is Suicide Awareness Month and the Aulneau Centre hosted its second-ever ASIST course last week. 

"One of the myths is that if you suspect someone is suicidal, you should avoid the conversation. It is recommended to have those very frank discussions and be very clear in terms of what they're thinking, and then proceeding with assistance."

The pandemic increased the need for a course like this, including for everyday people. 

"With the pandemic, we've seen an increase in terms of people requesting support in mental health services. In Canada in 2021, the statistic was that suicidal ideation was up by 4.2 per cent."

Halprin offers people a few simple steps to help their loved one who may be considering suicide.

"Be that support person. Have that very clear discussion, asking 'Are you suicidal?' Another big thing is to see if they have a plan."

Halprin says that if a loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide, having a list of go-to phone numbers to services is wise. 

"Whether that be your own as a personal contact. It could be professionals they're connected to, like a counsellor, or it could be crisis lines."

Winnipeg's Mobile Crisis Service number is 204-940-1781.

The Aulneau Renewal Centre is hoping to offer another two-day ASIST workshop in January 2023.