2-1-1 Big Bend and ASIST Training
By Alex Mikulka, Inpatient Admissions Supervisor
On a daily basis, Apalachee Center and 2-1-1 work together to ensure that individuals in the Big Bend can get the resources and services they need. However, many folks at Apalachee are unaware of the history and scope of 2-1-1.
For the better part of 3 years, I have been referring individuals to 2-1-1 Big Bend’s 24-hour crisis hotline. Until recently, I didn’t really know much about the organization or the extent of the services that they provide. However, when I received the opportunity to participate in training provided by 2-1-1 Big Bend, I learned that crisis hotline services are only a part (albeit a very important part) of the services that 2-1-1 Big Bend actually offers. I felt that the training I received, as well as the information I learned about the 2-1-1 Big Bend organization, was important for others to know and I decided to share what I learned.
The 2-1-1 Big Bend organization was founded in 1970 at the Florida State University’s Student Counseling Center. Originally called the Telephone Counseling Service (TCS), it was operated by university faculty, staff, and students. In 1976, TCS moved off of the FSU campus and was incorporated into a Florida nonprofit organization called the Telephone Counseling and Referral Service (TCRS). TCS continued to grow, and began to expand its services to include community information and referral, after-hours hotline service for domestic violence and mental health centers, and specialized hotlines for the State of Florida. In 2002, the agency changed its name to the current 2-1-1 Big Bend when it launched the 2-1-1 number as part of a national initiative to make it easier for people to find local hotline services related to human services. Currently, in addition to all the previously mentioned services, 2-1-1 offers trainings to the community on topics such as crisis intervention, conflict resolution, stress management, and suicide prevention.
In January of 2016, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2-1-1 Big Bend ASIST training held at the 2-1-1 office here in Tallahassee. ASIST, or “Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training”, is a two-day interactive training program that was designed to teach participants how to intervene and help prevent the immediate risk of suicide. The ASIST training emphasizes a 3 phase intervention model.
The first phase involves “connecting with suicide,” where caregivers are trained on how to explore clues provided by the caller. By directly asking if a person is thinking about suicide, the subject can be immediately addressed or, if the person is not thinking about suicide, a message of empathy and care can be conveyed.
The second phase involves “understanding choices”, where caregivers are trained on how to listen empathically to someone’s story and to support turning to safety. By taking the time to hear the person’s story and showing interest, the caregiver can develop an understanding of the person’s unique reason for considering suicide. Then, using the information gathered by listening, the caregiver can begin to identify a plan that will help keep the person safe.
The third phase involves “assisting life,” where caregivers develop safe plans and confirm actions to keep the person safe. Once immediate safety is addressed, caregivers can explore future actions that will help keep the person safe.
The ASIST training was designed for anyone age 16 or older regardless of prior experience or training, and I was impressed to see how effective the training was for participants with no formal mental health or crisis intervention training. I feel very fortunate to have 2-1-1 Big Bend as a community partner, both for directly assisting individuals who are struggling with thoughts of suicide as well as for involving those in the community.
Anyone interested in volunteering with 2-1-1 Big Bend can find the volunteering opportunities available here http://211bigbend.net/PDFs/VolunteerOpportunities.pdf