ASIST: One Employee’s Contribution to Making Suicide-Safer Communities

Beverly Chard, RN, MN, is a clinical educator with Eastern Health’s Mental Health & Addictions Program. In October 2016, Beverly received the ASIST NL Trainer Award of Excellence, at the ASIST NL 2016 Conference Awards Banquet.

ASIST stands for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, an interactive workshop that teaches suicide first aid interventions. At Eastern Health, it’s required training for all clinical staff in the Mental Health and Addictions Program.

Beverly Chard, with her ASIST Trainer Award of Excellence

Beverly Chard, with her ASIST Trainer Award of Excellence

The Trainer Award of Excellence was awarded to Beverly, a master trainer in ASIST, for demonstrating commitment to the goals of ASIST NL – for her leadership in bringing ASIST to Eastern Health staff and to the community of Newfoundland and Labrador – and for her outstanding contribution to making suicide-safer communities.

We congratulate Beverly on her successes and thank her for her leadership and hard work in the field of mental health. StoryLine took a few minutes to discuss with her the importance of recognizing the symptoms of suicide, and how best to intervene and help that person.

When you look at this award, what does it represent/symbolize for you?

I am grateful that Eastern Health recognizes the need to train staff in an internationally recognized evidence-based suicide intervention workshop such as ASIST.

ASIST is something that I truly believe in. This award symbolizes lots of hard work, commitment and dedication. Also, this award represents the ongoing support that I have received from my co-workers, local ASIST trainers and program directors; I could not have accomplished this without their support and encouragement. In addition,

What are the rates of suicide in Newfoundland and Labrador, and is there a particular demographic impacted most often?

The latest statistics (for 2015) show 61 reported suicides in Newfoundland and Labrador. Forty-eight were male; 13 were female. Four were youth – that is, under 19 years of age.

In a nutshell, what does ASIST train people to do?

ASIST is a two-day interactive workshop that teaches participants to recognize when someone may be at risk of suicide and to work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety. The goal is to prevent suicidal thoughts from becoming suicidal behaviour.

 Beverly Chard and Scott Beattie, ASIST trainers at Eastern Health, hold a training session for employees.

Beverly Chard and Scott Beattie, ASIST trainers at Eastern Health, hold a training session for employees.

How many health-care professionals at Eastern Health have taken this training – and why is it important for health-care staff to have it, even if they’re not in mental health programs?

To date, approximately 750 Eastern Health staff have been trained. This includes Mental Health and Addictions clinical staff, Pastoral Care staff and Long-Term Care social workers. Regardless of place of employment, any health-care worker can come across persons with thoughts of suicide; therefore, it is essential that health-care workers know how to intervene and meet the needs of a person at risk of suicide. Employees who participate report feeling more ready, willing and able to intervene after taking the ASIST workshop.

The award references that you have made our communities safer when it comes to suicide – once people have been trained to recognize the signs of suicidal thoughts, does that mean their training can be applied in any kind of setting?

The skills learned in ASIST can be applied in a variety of settings where there is a person with thoughts of suicide – both inside and outside – the health care system. Encounters with a person who is having thoughts of suicide can occur either in their professional or personal life. This workshop provides participants with the skills to know how to intervene, thus reducing the risk of suicide.

Why is this kind of ASIST-ance so important to you – why have you dedicated so much of your professional life to this issue?

I believe that ASIST works! ASIST is life-assisting, first aid intervention training. This type of life-assistance is life-saving and is one way that I can play a role (and help others play a role) in creating suicide-safer communities.

What would you say to those who may be thinking of suicide or to those who may be worried about the mental health of their friends or family members?

To calmly and confidently have an open discussion about suicide with those at risk. Remember that there are supports both formal (health-care professionals) – and informal (family, friends, etc.) that can help.


Links to Mental Health Emergency Services:

Mental Health Crisis Line: (24-hour provincial crisis line with a Mobile Crisis Response Unit for the St. John’s and surrounding area):  709-737-4668 or toll-free:  1-888-737-4668

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis may also go to the Emergency Department at the nearest hospital, or to the Psychiatric Assessment Unit at the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s.

To learn more about the ASIST program, please call 777-3775 or visit the international LivingWorks website:


This interview was conducted by Deborah Collins, a communications manager with Eastern Health, based in St. John’s. 

One response to “ASIST: One Employee’s Contribution to Making Suicide-Safer Communities

  1. Great job Bev. A very important issue indeed and it’s great to see you take initiative to further your abilities in helping others.

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