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The Case of St. Michael’s Hospital and CMHA Waterloo Wellington

Skills for Safer Living Program

Partnership background

To address the growing number of deaths by suicide and, in particular, the number of student deaths in the Waterloo-Wellington region, a partnership between St. Michael’s Hospital and CMHA Waterloo Wellington was formed in 2017. This project, which involved a combination of a 20-week skills-based group and a peer support group for individuals with recurring thoughts and behaviors about suicide. This program was created for university students, but the partners found that the groups often attracted university and college-aged people who weren’t currently enrolled in school.

Partnership roles

St. Michael’s Hospital provided the training and expertise around peer support for suicide. CMHA Waterloo Wellington helped with the group facilitation and supervision. Wilfred Laurier University provided space for the group to be held.

Resources created/shared

A collaborative guide written by Dr. Bergmans from St. Michael’s Hospital and some of her clients was created. This resource has been shared with each person that has completed the training.

Benefits of the partnership/program

  • A new mental health intervention specific to suicide is now being offered within this community. Previous groups were focused on talking about suicide, but this group was specifically meant to support people who have attempted suicide.
  • CMHA Waterloo-Wellington was able to obtain funding to sustain the program.

Lessons learned

  • Supervision needed – the program ran best when there was both contact with a clinical supervisor from St. Michael’s Hospital on a monthly basis and weekly supervision of the groups by either a qualified staff person from a partner organization or St. Michael’s hospital.
  • Adequate training time needed – the practitioner/team training was extended from two days to five days in order to accommodate the full range of topics.
  • Lived experience is essential – people with lived experience of suicide were a critical part of the facilitation team.
  • Research – in order to consistently conduct pre- and post-surveys, you need to have dedicated research support.
  • Support from all sides – those in management positions should be on board with supporting the program and its facilitators.
  • Staying connected – the program ran best when management got regular updates and was able to voice any questions or concerns.
Guide: PDF Version