Manage Stress Like a Marine

Military members salute

Introduction

Nobody knows stress management like the US military. Stress management has been recognized as an important part of ensuring an effective fighting force since the First World War. The US Marine Coprs manual MCRP 6-11C, “Combat and Operational Stress Control” (2010) is one part of this program.

Bite-sized takeaway: Know yourself and your team (whether that’s fellow Marines in a military environment or family and coworkers in a civilian enivronment) and be alert for any sudden, persistent or progressive change in their behaviour

Combat Stress Reactions

A combat stress-reaction (CSR) is the military equivalent to acute stress reaction, the state of agitation seen as a response to combat or other stressful or traumatic situations. These symptoms, if not properly managed, can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)

The most common combat stress reaction symptoms include:

  • Slow reaction time
  • Difficulty with tasks and prioritizing
  • Excessive concern with minor issues
  • Indecision
  • Focus on familiar tasks
  • Loss of initiative

It can be hard to recognize when something is a normal reaction to battle or something that requires more intense medical or psychological support. One example given is that mild shaking while being fired upon or mortar rounds are incoming is very normal. On the other hand, intense shaking post-battle can be incapacitating and will require additional support.

Normal reactions to battle can include:

  • Perspiration
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal distress
  • Frequent urination
  • Incontinence

Dreams and flashbacks are one area that are commonly associated with PTSD. MCRP 6-11C notes that vivid battle dreams are a totally normal part of working through and processing combat experiences. Additionally, flashbacks are normal as long as they are recognized as flashbacks. These may become part of PTSD if the acute stress reaction is not managed but can be treated.

Some issues that may require more intensive support are stress-related blindness/deafness or partial paralysis. These can improve with reassurance from comrades, unit medical personnel or the batallion physician. As well, a reaction known as a panic run, where the service member rushes about without self-control or awareness (US Army, 1950) also requires evacuation for treatment.

Managing Combat Stress Reactions

If you need to, remove a soldier’s access to his weapon if he is experiencing combat stress reactions and you’re not sure he can keep himself safe. Additionally, give him simple tasks to do when not sleeping, eating, or resting. Strategies to manage combat stress reaction include:

  • Treating the service member close to the front (better outcomes happen when the service member is out of danger but still in theatre)
  • Utilize the BICEPS Model of Combat Stress Control
    • Brief (they should be out of the field no more than 3-4 days)
    • Immediate (treatment should be identified and started quickly)
    • Centrality (they should be treated out of hospital but close to the front)
    • Expectancy (the chain of command should have faith the service member will recover)
    • Proximity (keep the service member close to the rest of their unit so they can offer support)
    • Simplicity (the treatment should focus on the member’s return to duty)

Sleep Deprivation

Night time is the time to retain or gain the initiative, so it is common for operations to occur then. This increases the chance that sleep deprivation affects military member abilities to manage combat stress. Increasing circulation through activities like moderate exercise or drinking hot beverages may shorten start-up time after a short time sleeping.

After 36-48 hours of complete sleep loss, a minimum of 12 hours of sleep will be required to regain functioning. Keep watch for sleep drunkenness, which is the opposite (reduced functioning as a result of sleeping too much.)

Grief and Death

One area that many military members struggle with is grief and death. So-called open grieving, talking about grief and loss with comrades can help alleviate anxiety, whether this is a fear of the military member’s own death or survivor guilt from having lost friends and fellow military members on the battlefield.

Stress Management Techniques

It’s recommended that each service member know two stress management techniques: a slow or long one that can be used for deep relaxation and a quick one that can be deployed on-the-job.

Psychological Stress Management

Confidence is one of the strongest defences against stress. “If men can’t fight back, fear will overtake; as long as they can return fire they will not fear.”

Cognitive exercises include positive self-talk, visualization, rehearsal and meditation. Positive self-talk involves telling yourself that things will work out for you, rather than assuming and thinking the worst. Replacing bad self-talk with good self-talk can help increase your resilience.

Visualization is a cognitive technique that involves imagining good things. When you remember something that made you angry, your body reacts the same (your blood pressure rises and constricts), and you’re “right back there” mentally. By visualizing happy things, your blood pressure reduces and you find yourself more able to cope.

Rehearsal is similar to visualization but specifically involves yourself going over the tasks in your mind that you are about to perform. This helps to give you more confidence that you’re able to perform these tasks. Finally, meditation is a form of deep breathing and relaxation to improve one’s emotional state.

Physical Stress Management

Good nutrition and hydration is important. Remember the acronym HALT, the four items that make regulating our emotions more difficult (HALT is “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.”) If the service member only drinks when they are thirsty, they’ll become dehydrated.

Increasing your aerobic fitness increases your ability to handle stress

Mastering relaxation techniques allows you to reverse the combat stress process. Physical stress management techniques include deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Breathing Techniques

Deep Breathing involves slow, deep inhaling. Deep breathe for 2-5 seconds, then exhale slowly over 2-5 seconds
Perform this exercise 5 times for a quick mind-clearing, or continuously at night to promote sleep. Diaphragmatic breathing (which is deep in the chest, as opposed to shallow) is especially helpful for stress control

Muscle Relaxation is a special form of relaxation where you concentrate on one muscle group at a time, tensing and relaxing your limbs in order to relax your entire body. The quick version involves tensing all your muscles simultaneously, holding this state for 15 seconds, letting your body relax, and shaking out all the tension.

The long version involves starting in your feet and working up, body part by body part until you reach your head, tensing and then relaxing the limbs.

Pre and Post-Deployment Reactions

New members to a unit are more likely to become casualties than experienced members. Keeping this in mind, experienced members can help mentor new ones to build resilience and support. “Startle reactions to sudden noise
or movement, combat dreams and nightmares and occasional problems with sleeping, and feeling bored, frustrated and out of place” wee all identified as being common after deployment, as the service member re-integrates into their community.

References

US Army. (1950) TM 8-240 Psychiatry in Military Law. Washington, DC: Department of the Army and the Air Force.

US Marine Corps. (2010) MCRP 6-11C, “Combat and Operational Stress Control”. Retrieved on September 5, 2016 from http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Publications/MCRP%206-11C%20%20Combat%20and%20Operational%20Stress%20Control.pdf

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Preventing Burnout on Crisis Lines

Introduction

Burnout is defined as a state of ineffectiveness comprising “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.” (Maslach, 1982) It is a pervasive and frustrating state, accounting for a large portion of the turnover experienced in mental health services, including volunteer and paraprofessional organizations like crisis lines.

There are a number of models of burnout, but one stage model is presented below from Cherniss (1980) and reproduced in Kinzel & Nanson (2000):

Stage 1: Stress

Stress is the first stage of burnout, when an individual is functioning at a level that exceeds their optimal operating conditions. This could be because of internal factors (like wanting a promotion or being intensely devoted to work), external factors (like being given a larger caseload due to budget cuts) or interpersonal factors (like a negative relationship with a colleague or supervisor.)

Stage 2: Strain

When a person experiences strain, they have now operated in a state of stress long enough that they are reaching a point of emotional exhaustion. Their coping begins to be maldaptive and they often experience negative somatic or physical complaints like headaches.

Stage 3: Defensive Coping

In the final stage of burnout, an individual’s burnout begins negatively impacting their ability to take calls or otherwise perform their helpline work. There is a lack of empathy or concern for the callers and this may be accompanied by blaming the callers or detachment from the situation. At this stage

Causes of Burnout

There are a variety of causes of burnout. Some listed by Kinzel & Nanson (2000) include:

  • Nature of crisis calls
  • Negative emotions experienced during the calls like anger or guilt
  • Countertransferrence (being triggered by one’s own experiences while supporting another)
  • Repeat or regular callers creating a feeling of powerlessness or ineffectiveness
  • A lack of effective coping skills

Additionally Kinzel & Nanson note studies that revealed the presence of magical thinking (assuming the situation would get better on its own) and escape-avoidance coping skills were associated with an increase in burnout, along with detachment and personality responsibility.

Paradoxically, workers who were too involved (taking personal responsibility for callers) were more likely to experience burnout as were volunteers who were detached. The least likely to experience burnout is the crisis line worker who stays emotionally connected to a caller but also recognizes that their life is their life and it is not the worker’s responsibility to change it. (Mishara & Giroux, 1993)

Assessing Burnout

The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI; Maslach, C., Jackson, S.E., & Leiter, 1996) is the most common measure for assessing burnout. It is a 21-item scale that produces scores on three subscales: Emotional Exhaustion, Personal Accomplishment and Depersonalization.

Morse et. al. (2012) notes example cut-off scores for the three scales as follows “emotional exhaustion scores of at least 21, depersonalization scores of at least 8, and personal accomplishment scores of 28 or below” but with the caveat that those scores may be lower than necessary, artificially inflating the presence of burnout in mental health professionals.

Helpline managers will need to take the lead in determining whether their workers are experiencing symptoms of burnout. This may be witnessed in the quality of listened calls, in the comments made on call reports, or contacts that occur off the lines. For instance, volunteers who:

  • Started giving more advice to callers
  • Talked to staff about frustration with non-suicidal callers “wasting” distress line time
  • Missed shifts because of not being emotionally capable

These may be situations where you would recommend burnout prevention activities. Potential treatments for burnout are discussed more in-depth below, but in the helpline environment a leave of absence (LOA) from the lines for a while, increased self-care or decreased activity (e.g. limiting hours weekly or monthly) can help avoid burnout.

Treatments for Burnout

Smullens (2013), writing for Social Worker magazine notes a number of strategies including:

  • Stimulus control and counterconditioning. Stimulus control involves active decisions like not choosing to eat lunch at your desk or bringing a plant into the office while counterconditioning involves physical exercise, hobbies, or other diversions
  • Mental health treatment. Therapists should seek their own therapy when their personal issues interfere, and someone who is experiencing or worried about experiencing burnout is certainly under that category
  • Diversify. This refers to the idea of changing your responsibilities to give you non-clinical activities that help to refresh and restore you. For many social workers, this involves teaching, conferences, or other activities, but for heplline workers it can also involve becoming a leadership volunteer, serving on a non-profit Board or another form of volunteerism

Oser et. al. 2013) added to this with burnout prevention strategies including:

  • Coworker support. Being able to vent to colleagues who have a sense of what you’re going through and understand your organizational culture can be very helpful. Feeling like (or being) isolated without anyone to discuss concerns with can exacerbate feelings of ineffectiveness. This applies to helpline workers as well, who can make frequent use of debriefing
  • Clinical supervision. Supervision can also help reduce feelings of isolation and ineffectiveness by giving individuals an opportunity to identify maladaptive coping strategies or other issues that may lead to burnout

Research is continuing so hopefully in the future we have specific therapies designed for burnout and options; a number of individuals leave the helping professions each year because of burnout, which is obviously not ideal.

References

Bowden, G. E., Elizabeth Smith, J. C., Parker, P. A., & Christian Boxall, M. J. (2015). Working on the Edge: Stresses and Rewards of Work in a Front-line Mental Health Service. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 22(6), 488-501. doi:10.1002/cpp.1912

Cherniss (1980). Staff Burn-Out. Job Stress in the Human Services. Sage Publications.

Kinzel, A., & Nanson, J. (2000). Education and debriefing: Strategies for preventing crises in crisis-line volunteers. Crisis: The Journal Of Crisis Intervention And Suicide Prevention, 21(3), 126-134. doi:10.1027//0227-5910.21.3.126

Maslach, C. (1982). Burnout: The Cost of Caring. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Mishara, B.L., Giroux, G. (1993). The relationship between coping strategies and perceived stress in telephone intervention volunteers at a suicide prevention center. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 23(3).

Maslach, C., Jackson, S.E., & Leiter, M.P. (1996) Maslach Burnout Inventory (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Morse, G., Salyers, M. P., Rollins, A. L., Monroe-DeVita, M., & Pfahler, C. (2012). Burnout in Mental Health Services: A Review of the Problem and Its Remediation. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 39(5), 341–352. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-011-0352-1

Smullens, S. (2013) What I Wish I Had Known: Burnout and Self-Care in Our Social Work Profession. Social Worker. Retrieved on December 28, 2016 from http://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/field-placement/What_I_Wish_I_Had_Known_Burnout_and_Self-Care_in_Our_Social_Work_Profession/

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Suicide Awareness Presentation

IntroductionSuicide Presentation Slide

The following is a presentation I prepared in 2012 on Suicide Awareness for delivery at Durham College. It’s just been sitting on my hard drive since then, so I’ve made it available for other organizations that wish to provide suicide awareness presentations. The content is reproduced below, and you can download the slides here. Although the content takes a Canadian focus, I’ve noted US statistics where possible.

Agenda

  • About Me
  • A Note on Wording
  • Definitions
  • Suicide Statistics
  • Suicide True and False
  • Risk Factors for Suicide
  • Warning Signs for Suicide
  • How to Help
  • Support Networks
  • Case Study

About Me

  • Currently Director of Online Support & Communication @ Distress Centre Durham
  • Distress Centre Durham History
    • 1600+ hours of telephone experience
    • 600+ hours of online chat and text
    • Former Placement Student, Summer Student (x3)
  • Trainer Experience
    • Distress Centre Durham Basic Training
    • DCIB Suicide Risk Assessment
    • Online Chat and Text (ONTX) Training

Before we start…

  • People do not commit suicide
  • You commit a crime, you get committed to a psychiatric hospital
  • Instead, people who take their own lives are said to have suicided or alternately died by suicide, as one dies of lung cancer or a person is murdered.

Definitions

  • Suicide – Intentional taking of one’s own life
  • Suicidal ideation – Clinical term for suicidal thoughts
  • Parasuicide
    • A suicidal attempt that is designed to fail or be discovered
    • Not necessarily attention-seeking behaviour

What is a Crisis?

A crisis is any event that overwhelms someone’s coping mechanisms, those things a person does to solve or deal with a problem

Suicide Statistics

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada for 18-24 year olds (behind car accidents) (Statistics Canada, 2015)
  • More than 90% of suicide victims may have had diagnosable mental illness (Bertolote, et. al., 2004) – Note that there is still not consensus on this figure, it still makes an important point about mental health treatment for suicide
  • 21,115 people died by suicide in Ontario in 2005
  • The suicide rate is 12.7 per 100,000 males and 4.1 per 100,000 females in Ontario (Statistics Canada, 2014a)
  • The Aboriginal suicide rate is 11 times higher than the national average (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011)

Risk Factors for Suicide (CDC, 2016)

  • Mental Illness
  • Clinical Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Schizophrenia all increase risk
  • Financial Difficulties
  • Bullying (+ Cyber-bullying) for young adults
  • Relationship Troubles
  • Academic / School Troubles
  • Legal Problems
  • History of Physical / Sexual Abuse
  • Bereavement Grief and Loss
    • Especially a suicide-related loss
    • Interrupted (or “Complicated” Grief)

Suicide True and False

(See: Common Suicide Myths)

  • Most suicides involve drugs or alcohol…True! Up to 70% percent of suicides involve alcohol or drugs (Pompili, 2010)
  • Talking about suicide can plant the idea in someone’s head False! Most people feeling suicidal want to talk about their feelings
  • Teenagers have the highest rate of suicide False! The highest risk population is 45-54 years of age in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2014b), and in the US (CDC, 2014)
  • The most common suicide method is pills False! The most common method (overall) is hanging (in Canada: Statistics, 2016); in the US it is firearm: Barber & Miller, 2014)
  • Most suicidal people leave notes False! Only about 30% of suicides leave notes (Shioiri, et. al., 2005)
  • Suicidal people want to die False! Most suicidal people don’t want to die, but want the pain to stop

Suicide Risk Factors vs. Suicide Warning Signs

  • Risk Factors are things that increase the likelihood someone will suicide because those things make coping more difficult
  • Warning signs are clues that a suicidal crisis may be imminent
  • It takes careful clinical examination by a trained mental health professional to determine a person’s level of risk in the medium and long-term

Suicide Warning Signs (AAS, n.d.)

  • Sudden Mood changes (either very happy or very sad)
  • Sudden appetite changes
  • Talking about life in the past tense
  • Telling people goodbye, tying up loose ends
  • Talking about suicidal acts, feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Making lethality statements (“I wish I could fall asleep and not wake up”)

How to Help

  • Listen!
  • Provide empathy
  • Refer to resources
  • Distress Centre (1-800-452-0688, 905-430-2522)
  • Durham College Counselling Services
  • Durham Mental Health Services
  • Other resources (e.g. spiritual)
  • Explore options
  • Build support network

Support Network

  • Three levels of support
    • Internal
    • External
    • Peripheral
  • Strong support network allows developing the resources that provides the strongest defence against suicide
  • Internal Supports
    • Things that we do ourselves to cope with stress
    • Examples include:
      • Journalling
      • Listening to music / Playing an Instrument
      • Running / Working Out / Exercise
      • Prayer / Meditation / Spirituality
      • Art
      • Yoga / Massage
      • Deep Breathing
      • Other Hobbies
  • External Supports
    • People in our “inner circle” we reach out to
    • Examples include:
      • Family
      • Friends
      • Pets
  • Peripheral Supports
    • Community agencies and others outside of our inner circle
    • Examples include:
    • Distress Lines (e.g. Distress Centre)
    • Family Doctors
    • Psychiatrists / Psychologists
    • Durham Mental Health Services
    • Clergy

Summary

  • Suicide is usually preventable
  • Asking about suicidal thoughts is the most important thing you can do
  • Never be afraid to reach out to a professional for help

Case Study

The original training included a case study derived from Distress Centre Durham training materials.

References

American Association of Suicidiology (AAS). (n.d.) “Warning Signs | American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs

Barber, C.W., Miller, M.J. (2014) Reducing a Suicidal Person’s Access to Lethal Means of Suicide: A Research Agenda. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 47(3S2):S264–S272

Bertolote, J. M., Fleischmann, A., De Leo, D., & Wasserman, D. (2004). Psychiatric Diagnoses and Suicide: Revisiting the Evidence. Crisis: The Journal Of Crisis Intervention And Suicide Prevention, 25(4), 147-155. doi:10.1027/0227-5910.25.4.147

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011) Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016) Suicide: Risk and Protective Factors. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/riskprotectivefactors.html

Pompili, M., Serafini, G., Innamorati, M., Dominici, G., Ferracuti, S., Kotzalidis, G. D., … Lester, D. (2010). Suicidal Behavior and Alcohol Abuse. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(4), 1392–1431. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph7041392

Public Health Agency of Canada. The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada 2006. Ottawa, ON: Public Health Agency of Canada,  2011. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/human-humain06/

Shioiri, T., Nishimura, A., Akazawa, K., Abe, R., Nushida, H., Ueno, Y., & … Someya, T. (2005). Incidence of note-leaving remains constant despite increasing suicide rates. Psychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 59(2), 226-228. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1819.2005.01364.x

Statistics Canada. (2014a) “Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group (Both sexes no.)” from CANSIM, table 102-0551. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/hlth66a-eng.htm on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2014b) “Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group (Both sexes no.)” from CANSIM, table 102-0551. Retrieved electronically from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/hlth66a-eng.htm on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2015) Table 102-0561 – Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada, annual, CANSIM (database). Retrieved on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2016) Navaneelan, T. Suicide rates: An overview. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2012001/article/11696-eng.htm

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Interprofessional Education in Suicide Prevention

Introduction to Interprofessional Education

This is an essay I wrote in 2015 for the course HSRV 306 Critical Reflection for Practice at Athabasca University.

Interprofessional education (IPE) is defined as “the process, through which two or more professions learn, with, from and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of service” (CAIPE, 1997) IPE has been practiced in various forms for decades (Smith & Clouder, 2010) but is most commonly associated with healthcare and the social sciences.

The advantage of interprofessional education is that it allows allied fields to benefit from “pooling together of expertise in teams [that] would make them more effective and efficient” (Illingworth & Cheivanayagam, 2007) than those professions working on their own. As there is much overlap in the work provided by professionals in social work, psychology and psychiatry this pooling together of resources has the potential to improve their skills and competencies.

One competency required by these professions is the ability to prevent suicide, which involves the interrelated skills of risk assessment and suicide intervention. How much an individual may need to intervene will differ depending on their role, with some professionals needing only to recognize the signs and refer them on, while others may be required to perform regular and comprehensive suicide risk assessment and intervention.

Suicide and Mental Health Professionals

The suicide rate in Canada has remained relatively steady in Canada for several years, with more than 3,000 individuals dying by suicide in Canada each year. (Statistics Canada, 2014) A 2002 meta-review demonstrated that many of these people visited physicians or nurses for physical health complaints before their death. (Luoma, Martin & Pearson, 2002) Whether or not these physical complaints were related to their mental health issues or not, an opportunity for suicide screening and subsequent referral was missed.

One study on suicide screening, focused on Emergency Departments in the United States found that when universal screening was implemented, requiring all patients to be screened for suicide regardless of their presenting problem, the rate of detected suicidal thoughts doubled. (Boudreaux, et. al., 2015) This demonstrates the importance of all healthcare professionals being competent in the basics of suicide screening.

Mental health professionals regularly treat suicidal clients, with Feldman & Freedmanthal’s 2006 study reporting 78% of social workers had provided service to a suicidal client in the previous year. While mental health professionals regularly work with suicidal clients they may lack the skills or confidence to respond appropriately.

Ruth et. al. (2006) conducted interviews with social work students, faculty and Deans and discovered that the majority of programs provided their social worker students less than 4 hours of education on suicide assessment during their graduate programs. This resulting lack of coverage left social work students feeling unconfident working with suicidal clients, and indeed scared of the possibility that a client will reveal suicidality, a fact noted by other researchers as well. (Osteen, Jacobson & Sharpe, 2014) This paralyzing fear may contribute to burnout or other negative professional consequences and ultimately make them less effective practitioners.

Interprofessional education has the potential to improve the care of suicidal clients by allowing professionals to take advantage of the best practices in education present in allied fields. By borrowing best practices from other helping professions the number of competent professionals may ultimately be increased and the number of suicides or potential suicides that are undetected may be reduced.

Potential drawbacks to adopting interprofessional education that have been documented in the literature include the costs of implementation (such as redesigning curriculums) and the possible loss of professional identity among different groups who learn the same skills (Smith & Clouder, 2010) Given that mental health care is already well-diffused (with each professional area like social work, psychology and psychiatry having specialties but ultimately all being able to provide counselling or therapy with training), this may be less of an issue in suicide prevention, which is currently practiced by volunteers all the way up to Psychiatrists and Psychologists holding doctorates.

Interprofessional Education in Physical and Mental Health

There are a number of approaches to education in mental health fields (social work and psychology) and physical health fields (nursing and non-psychiatric medicine), including best practices that have demonstrated improved knowledge transfer, satisfaction and skill within their respective professional programs.

Physical health professions include general medicine practiced by physicians as well as nurses, who are recognized as professionals in their own right (College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, n.d.). Professional schools of nursing have a long history, stretching back to the early 1900s (Schekel, 2009), while the first medical school opened in Italy in the 9th century. (de Divitiis, Cappabianca, & de Divitiis, 2004)

Education of physicians and nurses has always emphasized hands-on treatment and “learning by doing”, but especially since the 15th century when the first cadaver dissections were performed for medical students. (Rath & Garg, 2006)

Current techniques used in medical and nursing education include case studies, where the signs and symptoms of an illness and a patient’s history are described in detail and a diagnosis or treatment is sought (Raurell-Torreda, et. al., 2015), and simulated patients who are specially trained actors that medical students interact with in order to experience conducting clinical interviews, assessment and diagnosis (Uys & Treadwell, 2014).

Both case studies and simulated patients have shown utility in general nursing and medicine according to Luebbert & Popkess (2015). Some studies have specifically explored their utility with suicidal patients, such as Norrish (2009) who used cases to teach suicide risk assessment skills to Omani medical students.

Techniques that have demonstrated effectiveness with Psychology and Social Work students on the other hand, include role-playing (Murdoch, Bottorff & McCullough, 2013) where students practice simulated complaints with each other in order to develop the skills of recognizing and responding to suicidal statements, and evidence-based lecture. (Scott, 2015)

Gate-keeper training programs that are designed to teach lay people the basic skills of recognizing the signs of suicide and referring individuals to trained professionals, for instance, QPR (Lancaster, et. al., 2014) have demonstrated effectiveness in increasing confidence and skill in both nursing (Bolster, Holliday, Oneal & Shaw, 2015) and social work students. (Sharpe, Frey, Osteen & Bernes, 2014)

While domain-specific education for nurses and physicians has begun to be developed, it lacks the exploration of knowledge-transfer and rigorous methodology necessary for it to be as effective as possible. One example of beginning nurses education is Kishi et. al. (2014), who had emergency room nurses in Japan completing a 1 day workshop. The workshop covered suicide risk assessment, management of the immediate suicidal crisis, referring patients to long-term resources, and attitudes towards suicidal patients. This workshop was taught using lectures and case studies, with a pre and post-test design on a scale measuring attitudes towards suicide (but not knowledge transfer or skill acquisition.) The lack of a knowledge-transfer component means these nurses are unable to demonstrate whether they learned anything or if they apply their training to their patients.

Other exercises in integrating suicide prevention into social work including Scott (2015) who developed a full-semester course for MSW students that taught suicide risk assessment, intervention, and public health interventions such as media guidelines around suicide. Luebbert & Popkess (2015) had students complete either a video-taped lecture or speak to a standardized patient after being exposed to material on suicide assessment and found that the group that worked with the standardized patient felt much more confident.

What is lacking in nursing and medical education is a focus on evidence-based practice in suicide prevention, an issue noted by nursing faculty (Kalb et. al., 2015) Additionally providing opportunities for hands-on practice through exercises like case studies, simulated patients, and roleplaying will allow for necessary deep knowledge transfer.

Conclusion

Suicide prevention is a field ripe for improvement by integrating the best practices from a variety of allied fields. Most notably, from nursing and general medicine the case study and simulated/standard patients may help social workers and psychologists reduce their fear of working with suicidal clients, while the strong evidence-based lecture, roleplaying and gate-keeeper training may give busy nurses and physicians an opportunity to develop suicide awareness and referral skills that will allow them to intervene to prevent death.

References

Bolster, C., Holliday, C., Oneal, G., & Shaw, M. (2015). Suicide Assessment and Nurses: What Does the Evidence Show?. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 20(1), 1-1 1p. doi:10.3912/OJIN.Vol20No01Man02

Boudreaux, E., Allen, M., Goldstein, A.B., Manton, A., Espinola, J. & Miller, I. (2015) Improving Screening and Detection of Suicide Risk: Results from the Emergency Department Safety Assessment and Follow-up Evaluation (ED-SAFE) Effectiveness Trial. Society for Prevention Research 23rd Annual Meeting. Accessed Dec 10 2015 from https://spr.confex.com/spr/spr2015/webprogram/Paper23206.html

de Divitiis, E., Cappabianca, P. & de Divitiis, O. (2004) The “schola medica salernitana”: the forerunner of the modern university medical schools. Neurosurgery. 55(4);722-44

CAIPE (1996) Principles of Interprofessional Education. London: CAIPE.

College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba. n.d. “Standards of Practice for Registered Nurses: Nursing Practice Expectations” Accessed electronically from https://www.crnm.mb.ca/uploads/document/document_file_89.pdf?t=1438266260 on Dec 11 2015.

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Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2016), "Interprofessional Education in Suicide Prevention," retrieved on January 17, 2017 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/interprofessional-education-suicide-prevention/.
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Crisis Hotline Certification

Introduction

If you’re like me, you value certification and being able to demonstrate that you have the knowledge to provide crisis intervention in a safe and responsible manner. For those who work in private practice or perform training or other consulting, having crisis intervention certifications can help those who want to hire you feel confident that you know your stuff.

What follows below are a number of crisis intervention and suicide certifications and trainings that you can use to build your knowledge, increase your skills and improve your portfolio.

AAS Crisis Worker Certification

Cost: $85

Prerequisites:

  • 21 years of age or older
  • 500 hours or 2 years full-time crisis intervention experience
  • Completion of an approved crisis intervention training program/course
  • Completion of the AAS exam

Description: The American Association of Suicidology offers this crisis intervention certification. The description from their website is below:

The training program AAS offers is designed to provide a standardized set of understandings and opportunities to practice both basic crisis worker skills and more advanced skills that, we believe, will help crisis workers be the best they can be.  With this training and reading the backup bibliographic resources, they should be well prepared to successfully pass the AA’s individual crisis worker certification exam.

Advanced Crisis; Intervention and Counselling

Cost: Approximately $385 x 6 courses = $2,310 for domestic students

Prerequisites: Degree or diploma in a health, human, or social services discipline, or reelvant work or volunteer experience

Description: Offered by Humber College in Toronto, Canada, the Crisis Intervention and Counselling certificate program is six courses that provide comprehensive training focusing “on the immediate support and intervention individuals often require in crisis situations.”

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)

Cost: Varies, typically $150-250

Prerequisites: None

Description: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a two-day training in suicide intervention. Completion of ASIST shows that you recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide, understand how to ask someone about suicide, perform a risk assessment and finally complete a suicide intervention or safety plan before referring individuals for more long-term help.

ASIST is another option for crisis intervention certification. If you want to further develop your training, LivingWorks also offers Suicide to Hope, an advanced training in suicide case management.

Certified Volunteer Helpline Worker

Cost: $0

Prerequisites: Volunteer at a Distress Centre

Description: If you volunteer for Distress Centre Durham (DCD) or a similar crisis line, they may offer a Certified Volunteer Helpline Worker option to you. At DCD, you’re required to complete and pass our 18 hour Basic Training, 16 hours of on-the-phone supervised shifts and a 3-hour Advanced Training session in order to be awarded the Certified Volunteer Helpline Worker title. Other crisis lines may have slightly different options for crisis intervention certification.

Online Counseling and Suicide Intervention Specialist (OCSIS)

Cost: $199 for volunteers/students, $399 for professionals

Prerequisites: None

Description: The OCSIS course trains individuals to perform crisis intervention and suicide prevention in an online environment. It also provides individuals with a QPR Gatekeeeper certification as well. In addition to the course itself there is the OCSIS Certificate of Competency which involves expert review of a case study in order to receive the QPR crisis intervention certification.

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