By: Joey Weisler

Three weeks ago, the Mobilizing MSD Alumni chapter brought Dena DeLucia to Parkland to help the community focus on healing through two programs: safeTALK and safeASIST which are targeted to help students, parents, teachers, and coaches take a proactive approach to suicide prevention. 

Thanks to its crucial success, the programs are now making a comeback this month.

The first program is safeTALK – or Suicide Awareness For Everyone talk, a three-hour, half-day workshop and training geared towards students ages 15 and up that will prepare them to become a suicide-alert helper.

SafeTALK teaches participants how to use words and actions to help potential suicide victims stay alive and allow them to take positive life-saving actions. 

The second offered program is ASIST – or Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, a two-day workshop that goes beyond other suicide prevention programs in teaching participants how to actually intervene and make a safe plan for someone at risk. It is open to everyone age 16 and up who interacts with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community, including teachers, students and their parents. 

Both workshops are being led by MSD alumna Dena DeLucia, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and combat veteran. With costs being covered by Mobilizing MSD Alumni, all participants need to do is sign up.

MSD teachers can also get professional development credits and students can earn service hours for attending. 

“The event is open to the entire community,” said DeLucia. “We highly encourage student leaders from the cadet battalion commander to the drum major and sports team captains along with coaches, administrators, security and resource officers to attend.”

While in attendance for ASIST, DeLucia said participants can expect a two-day workshop in “suicide first aid”.  Attendees will additionally learn how to recognize when someone may be having thoughts of suicide and “work with them to “create a plan to ‘safe for now’.  Over the course of the two days, the workshop will involve an analysis of attitudes on the views of suicide, identifications of key elements to make effective individual suicide safety plans, and recognizing the importance of life promotion and self-care activities. 

“We will do this through powerful audio-visual learning aids, group discussions, as well as skill practice and development,” DeLucia explains.  “Overall, the goal of every ASIST session is for each participant to be able to walk away feeling a little bit more comfortable than they did before they got there on how to intervene after recognizing someone is at risk for suicide and being able to work with them to create a plan to keep them safe.” 

As such, participants will strategically be able to work towards facilitating a suicide safer community.

Holocaust Studies teacher Ivy Schamis, whose classroom was tragically impacted by the school shooting in building 12, attended DeLucia’s ASIST program in July. 

“It was a really wonderful experience”, said Schamis.“We’ve had some problems with suicide over the years at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, as have many schools across the country, and now I feel much more equipped to deal with issues that arise.” 

ASIST also provided Schamis and others in her program to better deal with students and their families who are having issues with suicide and suicidal thoughts.    

Between July 16-20, DeLucia certified 33 community members in ASIST and 10 members in safeTALK in Parkland.

SafeTALK

SafeTALK will be offering two half-day sessions on Friday, August 10, from 12 p.m.- 4p.m. and again from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. both at MSD. The cost is free.   Attendees can register by emailing denadelucia@gmail.com.

ASIST

ASIST will be offered on August 11-12  from 8:15 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. at the Coral Springs Fire Academy, at 4180 NW 120 Ave Coral Springs.  Please pack a lunch for both days.  Full attendance is required for both days of the registered session in order to receive certification.  The cost is free; however, there is a $40 no-show fee or cancellation fee (24 hours out or less).

Attendees can register at http://msdstrongalum.com/ASIST

Joey Weisler is a native to the city of Parkland and a homebred student of each of the Parkland schools (MSD class of 2013).  He has earned his BA in Communication Studies from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in 2017 and his MA in English: Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in 2018.  He hopes to make huge strides as an up-and-coming secondary English/Language Arts instructor.

Joey is also a nationally distributed screenwriter.  Catch his Pilot, “The Abnormals”, on the South Florida PBS-WPBT Spring 2018 series “Filmmaker”.  “The Abnormals” is a drama filmed in Parkland with South Florida talent (2015).