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ASIST and safeTALK workshops offer chance for rural residents to learn suicide prevention

Two workshops are being offered through LivingWorks, a partner organization of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in the coming months.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention logo is a blue and white circle with the words American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to the right in black.
The Minnesota chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is partnering to provide to suicide prevention training opportunities in rural areas.
Courtesy / American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
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The pandemic has proved to have a silver lining for rural communities and mental health — more resources and understanding have become available virtually, a mental health advocate says.

Cassandra Linkenmeyer is the director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Minnesota Chapter. Linkenmeyer was recently a guest on the Agweek Podcast.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a national nonprofit and its mission is to "save lives and help all those who are affected by suicide," said Linkenmeyer. She said a lot of the nonprofit's work along with other groups promoting suicide prevention has been focused around agricultural and rural communities in recent years.

"It has been kind of one of the areas at the forefront of suicide prevention, here in Minnesota, but especially in any state with a large farming or rural community," said Linkenmeyer. "We know that there's a lot of different factors for that, when it comes to living in a rural area, including things like lack of access to mental health care providers, and just simply kind of that stigma, and lack of information that still exists around mental health and suicide."

Linkenmeyer said there's also a lot of isolation in rural communities, that requires there to be more focus on mental health and suicide prevention.

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"So it has been a priority for organizations like mine, and other partner organizations across the state to help address that need in the farming community," she said.

One thing that has helped over the pandemic, said Linkenmeyer, is the addition of virtual resources, which goes a long way to help rural communities.

"I think a bright spot that has come out of the pandemic is more development into virtual trainings, virtual therapies or talk therapy — so we're taking away that if you need to see someone, it's not a two or three hour drive to get to your nearest mental health professional," said Linkenmeyer. "We can now do that over the phone, or we can have a video conference with a professional to help you out. So I do think that there's a lot of hope."

ASIST

ASIST — which stands for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training — is one of the programs offered through LivingWorks, which is a partner organization AFSP.

"We like to sponsor their programs and trainings in our state and across the country, because simply they are exceptional trainings when it comes to helping those individuals who are struggling," said Linkenmeyer.

ASIST is a two-day face-to-face workshop featuring powerful audiovisuals, discussions and simulations. At an ASIST workshop, attendees learn how to prevent suicide by recognizing signs, providing a skilled intervention and developing a safety plan to keep someone alive.

Two knowledgeable trainers will guide participants through the course, ensuring their comfort and safety.

safeTALK

safeTALK workshops are what Linkenmeyer calls a "mini-training" of ASIST workshops. A session of safeTALK consists of a four-hour face-to-face workshop featuring powerful presentations, audiovisuals and skills practice.

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At a safeTALK workshop, participants learn how to prevent suicide by recognizing signs, engaging someone and connecting them to an intervention resource for further support. One trainer leads a safeTALK workshop.

Linkenmeyer said for people like her brother, who works at a farmers co-op, safeTALK is a great option to get educated on suicide prevention.

"Anyone who works with a lot of people, if you can know those signs, and what to look for, if we can seek out those invitations for help that can be overlooked, we can help save people," she said.

To find upcoming ASIST and safeTALK events in Minnesota, visit the AFSP website .

Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. He's also the host of the Agweek Podcast.

While covering agriculture he's earned awards for his localized reporting on the 2018 trade war, and breaking news coverage of a fifth-generation dairy farm that was forced to sell its herd when a barn roof collapsed in the winter of 2019. His reporting focuses on the intersection of agriculture, food and culture.

He reports out of Rochester, Minnesota, and can be reached at nfish@agweek.com
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