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Portland State University, School of Social Work
Published: 04 December 2018

Last week, the Portland State University School of Social Work (SSW) sponsored a suicide prevention training to address the rise in suicide across the U.S. and, more importantly, here in Oregon. According to the CDC, Oregon has seen a 28.2 percent increase in suicides from 1999 to 2016. Over half of those who have died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

“It’s absolutely a public health problem,” says Laura Nissen, Dean of the School of Social Work. “In order to decrease rates of suicides, we have to work together as educators, researchers, concerned citizens and community servants to learn more about this epidemic, and what we can do individually as well as collaboratively to help save lives.”

In Oregon, a person dies from suicide every 11 hours. A person is more likely to die from suicide than homicide, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for adults aged 18 to 34. This is significant for Portland State University, where the average age of students is 26.

The training, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), is a two-day interactive workshop that teaches individuals how to spot someone who may be at risk for suicide, and how to appropriately intervene to help keep the person safe. As stated on the LivingWorks Education website, the workshop is “ideal for child welfare, education, counseling, community justice, domestic violence, healthcare, senior services, other social service providers, and concerned citizens who want to know more.”

Dean Nissen sponsored the training and made it free for SSW alumni who work within these sectors with an array of individuals. The workshop was facilitated by Monica Parmley, Assistant Professor of Practice and DeShawn Williams, Adjunct Instructor at the SSW, in addition to Paige Hirt of Foundations Counseling and Consultation Services. Parmley also co-teaches a social work elective that offers a modified version of the training, called Suicide TALK, to educate students about suicide prevention skills. 

In the future, the School of Social Work hopes to partner with other PSU departments and outside agencies to offer this training across the campus and to the community.




National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours every day


Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center

Call 503-988-4888

Available 24 hours every day



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