In 1996, an award was presented to the first trainer to deliver 100 LivingWorks ASIST workshops. ASIST NL Team Leader, Gerry Dooley, was a member of the original group responsible for putting together the first ever trainer conference in St. John’s and was the recipient of this honor.
Now called ASIST NL, this year’s conference is celebrating 28 years of annual gatherings. Dooley mentions that the conference’s inception in 1996 was due to the growing number of trainers who expressed a need to talk about the work they were doing, as well as the potential stress and trauma that came with their role.
“Back then suicide was a taboo topic, but it was also new in terms of anybody having any idea that you could help somebody,” says Dooley. “We were the first in the world that were related to ASIST and to LivingWorks to do a conference… our conference evolved into what it is now and has started to gain its own reputation.”
Initially, the conference was only geared toward residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and the surrounding area. After multiple successful years of gathering, the conference was opened to international attendees in 2004.
“LivingWorks is seen as one of the leaders in suicide training around the world, and that’s why we continue to get people coming to our conference every year from [around the world],” says Dooley.
This year, there were multiple attendees from the UK and Australia, as well as other parts of the world.
“We get people coming from all across Canada and the United States, this past T4T we had three people come from Hawaii. We think that Newfoundland has a reputation out there and it’s because of the people, promotion, genuineness and the quality of the kind of conference we have,” says Dooley.
ASIST NL President, Randy Hanlon, is a former correctional officer who received ASIST training as a part of his job in the 90’s. In 2009, he became a trainer himself and attended his first conference a year after.
“We have a lot of fun. We will have serious talks, but we will have fun,” says Hanlon. “It’s great for networking, which is what suicide intervention is all about, connecting with each other. We fill each other’s bag with that kind of stuff year in and year out at each and every conference.”
Hanlon explained that ASIST NL Conference Co-Chair, Tracy Hynes, is a large part of the conference’s continued success.
“The amount of detail that she looks after for any attendee for our conference is unbelievable. It’s above and beyond what you would expect from a five-star hotel. We are lucky to be able to hang onto her coattails and enjoy the ride.”
Voyage to Safety – the title for this year’s 28th annual trainers conference – took place from October 19 – 23. This year’s conference celebrates both LivingWorks’ 40th anniversary, as well as 37 years of providing training in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Both Hanlon and Dooley believe that the conference has cemented itself as one of the best and will have continued success as the years go on.
“We are trying to address the needs and concerns of the trainers be it that it’s in the classroom, community or within the trainers themselves… the format really works for trainers because they can learn stuff but also have fun,” says Dooley. “We see that it is going to stay vibrant because the trainers are committed here in this province.”