Skills For Safer Living

The Cause

Every year, 1 in 6 Albertans thinks seriously about suicide. More than 5-10 every week will die by suicide.

CMHA Edmonton wants to bring Skills for Safer Living (SfSL) to our city to help people who are at risk for suicide.

SfSL is a suicide-intervention skills development group to reduce the potential risk factors for suicidal-related behaviours. The SfSL program is a combination of a twenty-week skills-based group, delivered in two, 10-week sessions and a peer support group for individuals with recurring thoughts and behaviours about suicide. The group process and content has been derived from the innovative work of Dr. Yvonne Bergmans and developed at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. The SfSL program that CMHA Edmonton will offer would be provided by a team of skilled peer supporters who have extensive practice and lived experience knowledge around understanding and preventing suicide.

This grant will fund the first phase of implementing Skills for Safer Living in Edmonton. It will train facilitators through CMHA Edmonton's peer programs and community, seniors through the Community Geriatric Psychiatry Program, and students through the University of Alberta's Wellness Program. Our vision is hope and support for recovery through the shared lived experience.

Who Will it Benefit?

SfSL will help a large number of people including post-secondary students, peer community members (people with lived experience of mental health challenges) and seniors. The SfSL intervention is for people who have experienced one or more self-defined suicide attempt(s) and who want to live life more safely. The core group is inclusive of all genders and members have in common the experience of multiple suicide attempts. This shared experience is important in generating a sense of belonging and group cohesion.

Groups go through the training in cohorts to become trained facilitators and learn how to better support community members. Each group requires a minimum of 2 facilitators who work together to deliver the content of the intervention, manage the group process, ensure the quality of the intervention and adhere to local organizational administrative responsibilities and issues. SfSL is reported to have therapeutic benefits to participants who complete the intervention in terms of managing distress more safely, for some, improved quality of life and changes in suicidal thinking and behaviors. These effects are brought about through the three-pronged approach used in the intervention; a) the combination of practical skills training, such as, distress management and communication skills; b) group discussion, for example, having a place where suicidal thinking and behaviors are not silenced or ignored and c) education about issues, such as, emotions, personal rights and identifying personal needs.