The nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, has taken a groundbreaking step in training every Tennessee Highway Patrol officer and cadet in safeTALK, a comprehensive three-hour suicide prevention training.
Tennessee is the first state in the nation to have their complete highway patrol force trained in suicide prevention.
“The Tennessee Highway Patrol is committed to partnering with organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to better train our troopers on serious matters like suicide,” Colonel Tracy Trott said. “Our troopers are trained to recognize the signs of suicide risk through the safeTALK program. The more we can comfortably discuss suicide, the more lives we can save.”
Every Wednesday for 32 weeks, from March until the beginning of December in Nashville, 848 officers and cadets were trained in safeTALK. Additionally, some of the senior officers at the Highway Patrol were trained to be safeTALK instructors to assist in this huge undertaking. The total cost, between $8,000 – $10,000, was sponsored by the AFSP Middle Tennessee Chapter. Run mainly by volunteers who have lost a loved one to suicide, those who live with a mental health condition and those who have an interest in suicide prevention, the chapter organized Out of the Darkness community walks and other fundraising events to raise the money needed to sponsor these training sessions.
“Since Tennessee is such a rural state, oftentimes people who live in the state might not have the same access to mental health services,” said Kat Cloud, AFSP Tennessee Area Director. “The Highway Patrol might be one of the few connections some residents in the state have to suicide prevention support in their community. We’re so pleased that the Tennessee Highway Patrol made suicide prevention a priority in 2017.”
“We are extremely grateful for AFSP volunteer Shannon Hall who provided the connection to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and for retired Capt. Robert Bighem, who was instrumental in getting this program launched,” Cloud said.
Hall is the board chair for the AFSP Middle Tennessee chapter. She works for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. She lost her brother Matthew in 2012 to suicide and subsequently got involved in AFSP shortly thereafter. Hall lives in Nashville.
safeTALK trains members of the community to recognize the signs of suicide and then to take action by connecting those exhibiting these signs with life-saving intervention resources. Since its development in 2006, safeTALK has been used in over 20 countries around the world. The training features four easy-to-remember steps: Tell, Ask, Listen, and KeepSafe.