The CAST Program works with Nova Scotians to build and strengthen their capacity to address suicide at the community level; recognizing that everyone has the potential to make a difference and can contribute to a community that is safer from suicide. The CAST Program considers the broader factors associated with suicide by using a population health approach in an effort to improve the mental health of all Nova Scotians, while reducing suicide risk. The CAST Program includes programs and services such as: suicide prevention/intervention/postvention awareness, education & training; CAST Coalition development & sustainability; resource sharing; and program evaluation.
The CAST Program Background
The CAST Program officially launched in September 2006 in direct partnership between the Canadian Mental Health Association [CMHA NS] Nova Scotia Division and the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness (formerly the Department of Health Promotion and Protection).
Events and efforts that contributed to the creation of the CAST Program include:
Nova Scotia hosted its first symposium on suicide. Following the event, the document Benchmark and Recommendations To Address Suicide in Nova Scotia was released. The report suggested the development of community-based action groups to address suicide.
Following the symposium, concerned community members and government officials joined together to create the Nova Scotia Community Network to Address Suicide; the first community-led suicide prevention Coalition in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia’s injury prevention strategy (the first of its kind in Canada), the Nova Scotia Injury Prevention Strategy: Report and Recommendations, was released. This report identified self-inflicted injuries and suicide as priority areas and outlined the need for a provincial strategy to address suicide. Research cited in the strategy revealed that suicide was the leading cause of injury-related death and the third leading cause of injury-related hospitalization in Nova Scotia.
The Nova Scotia Strategic Framework to Address Suicide followed an in-depth, two-year consultation process. Goals of the strategic framework included: Leadership, Infrastructure and Partnership; Awareness and Understanding; Prevention; Intervention; Postvention; and Knowledge Development and Transfer. The CAST Program was consulted and contributed to the development of this framework.
There were 7 coalitions in Nova Scotia creating more awareness around suicide prevention. A provincial conference was held with 99 attendees. Toolkit was drafted and piloted and two workshops 5- ASSIST and 1 safeTALK were facilitated.
Hosted CASP conference.
CAST Toolkit Orientation Training is introduced to coalitions and First Nations communities. Work continues with communities to create Community Plans to Address Suicide. CMHA-NS hosted the 2011 NS LivingWorks Trainers Conference. Funding was received to bring in NAMI New Hampshire to provide Connect Suicide Postvention Training T4T.
Several initiatives for building a provincial network being including creating a youth network development by meeting with Department of Education Minister and Anti-Bullying Coordinator, establishing a Partnership development with Acadia University and NSCC Student Services as well as joining the DHW Seniors Mental Health Network.
There was an increase focus in training of ASIST and safeTALK which was offered in Colchester County, the Annapolis Valley and with the Mikmaq Friendship Centre. A new program, Reaching Out, was offered to all Pictou County grade 10 students. More CMHA NS Staff trained in safeTALK t4t.
Coalition were present in several communities: AnnapolisValley, Colchester EastHants, Cumberland, Pictou (independent) and Southwest Nova West Nova
The CAST Program Evaluation
In 2015 Horizons Community Development Associates conducted an evaluation of the CAST Program. The purposes of the evaluation were to describe the history/evolution of the CAST Program since its inception, to paint a picture of where the CAST Program is now, and to make recommendations for continuing to strengthen the CAST Program’s work into the future.
Several key finding resulted from this evaluation:
- Working from a population health, a community-based and community development approach, building capacity and creating partnerships, is important and a strength.
- CAST’s role and functions require clarification because of the complex, multi-faceted issue and the multiple initiatives taken on by the program.
- The population health approach is challenging to implement because of its differences from the traditional medical model and differing approaches by stakeholders.
- There is increased awareness of suicide and suicide prevention because of CAST. Opportunities for safe and helpful discussions have been created.
- CAST’s contribution to reducing suicide and suicide attempts are the development of training, resources and capacity building. Its work in postvention is significant.
- CAST has the potential to have a greater impact in all areas of its work, particularly with coalitions.
Currently the CAST program is focused on continuing to build the online resource hub. Community member who want to build on their understanding of suicide or have been impacted by suicide can find numerous fact sheets, toolkits, reports, media, etc by searching the CAST HUB. This information can be used to build personal knowledge, help someone in need, create more awareness, or when applying for funding. Workplace and schools will also find resources to create a healthier environment for their employees and students.