Suicide class aims to prevent self-harm

By SARA BERTSCH Managing Editor

Saving a life. That is the goal of one class next fall semester that deals specifically with an issue that can be easily preventable – suicide.

Service Learning – Assist, more specifically SOC 286, is a two-credit class that will focus on recognizing the warning signs of suicide and how to better deal with people who are thinking about suicide.

“Hopefully by the end of the two day training, they will leave better ready, willing and able to help a person at risk for suicide,” said Lori Montis, suicide and crisis support director of the Helpline Center in Sioux Falls.

The two-day training will take approximately 16 hours of work. The class will teach students on what to do using the ASIST model. ASIST stands for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.

“What happens a lot of times is they get stuck … You feel obligated to help and this class helps teach the ‘now what?’ using the ASIST model and coming up with a safe plan to help that person connect with whatever support or service they need,” Montis said.

The class must also complete a service activity. Marlene Schulz, an instructor in the sociology department, will coordinate the program along with ASIST instructors.

Schulz will focus on the service activity portion of the class while Montis will front the actual training.  For the service activity, students must use their knowledge to help the community, such as a poster or presentation.

“The goal is to get more information out there for what’s available and what people can do,” Schulz said.

According to Schulz, a group last year brought in pets to de-stress students as part of their service activity, while another team was active with the first annual Step Up to Prevent Suicide 5K/walk last year at SDSU. 

The service learning class is often paired with another one-credit course called Mental Health First Aid, which occurred last week.

This first aid class teaches the basics of mental health crisis and how people can recognize individuals with mental health issues and how they can respond, Schulz said.

Along with the Step Forward to Prevent Suicide Walk that occurred on April 11, there has been a lot of light shed upon suicide in the past month at SDSU.

This is the goal of Schulz, Montis and everyone else involved – to make the community aware.

“We are all going to encounter suicide in our lives,” Schulz said. “If we can save a few lives, it will be worthwhile.”