Today was a very special day for the Collateral Damage Project and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) with campuses in Sudbury and Thunder Bay. Perhaps most importantly, today was significant for all residents of Northern Ontario including people of Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

The Collateral Damage Project was founded with the mandate of creating a pro-active dialogue on suicide by sharing stories and portraits of those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide. Through sharing stories, we advocate for changes to curriculum, policy and legislation. We believe that definitive tools/training are needed to break the stigma, allow healing and begin prevention.

On November 21, 2011, I did a presentation with the students of NOSM and it was then that the path to curriculum change began. This was a powerful session with immediate reaction from the students. The students not only talked about the need for change, they demanded it in writing. Please click on this link to read their letters and comments.

The letters and comments received the attention of Dr. Brian Ross, Professor at NOSM who initially asked “how did we miss this?” but then very quickly posed the question, “what are we going to do about it?” This was the moment when storytelling collided with academia. Now some may feel that storytelling is not nearly as important or vital as the fundamental training of Physicians. However, I’ll pose this question, “do you know the story of Terry Fox?” If so, what impact do you believe his story has had on cancer care, treatment and prevention in Canada and around the world?

On behalf of the Board of Directors and our Advisory Team of the Collateral Damage Project, we congratulate NOSM on their leadership in implementing curriculum based training in suicide prevention and awareness.

Published Articles and Interviews;
TBT News Watch;

CBC News;

CBC Radio (audio)

Scott Chisholm, Dr. Brian Ross, Dr. Jack Haggarty, Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler

Scott Chisholm, Dr. Brian Ross, Dr. Jack Haggarty, Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler

For immediate release – Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Media Release 

NOSM Responds to High Suicide Rates in the North 

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) has incorporated suicide awareness training into NOSM’s MD curriculum in an effort to respond to the high rates of suicide in the region.

First-year students at NOSM now undergo safeTALK training, a three-hour program created by LivingWorks that trains participants to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and to connect them with suicide first aid resources. NOSM is also developing and piloting other tools designed to help medical students deal with suicide in their future practice as physicians.

“The Northern Ontario School of Medicine was the first medical school in Canada established with an explicit mandate to improve the health of the people and communities that it serves,” explains Dr. David Marsh, Interim Associate Dean, Undergraduate Medical Education. “Integrating safeTALK training into our MD curriculum supports students and future health professionals of Northern Ontario in responding to the increased prevalence of suicide and self-inflicted injuries in the North.”

Community support workers, including youth, are currently receiving and facilitating safeTALK workshops in approximately half of Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s 49 member communities, which is strengthening the resiliency of NAN First Nations members.

“SafeTALK training is a vital resource to help identify and prevent potential suicide in NAN First Nations, the majority of which are remote and lack adequate professional heath care resources, and goes hand-in-hand with ASIST training to provide direct aid to individuals who may have thoughts of self-harm,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who holds the health portfolio. “We need to change mindsets from coping with suicide to advancing life promotion through programming and training in order to build resilient, healthy communities.”

“As a medical school committed to improving the health of Northern Ontarians, we need to play our part in reducing the shockingly high number of deaths that occur from suicide in our region,” says Dr. Brian Ross, NOSM Professor and Phase 1 Coordinator.

“People hear about an issue such as suicide and think, ‘this is bigger than me.’ But, there are tangible changes that we can all make – including talking about suicide – that go a long way in reducing stigma and breaking myths,” says Scott Chisholm, founder of the Collateral Damage Project. “NOSM’s incorporation of safeTALK into their curriculum demonstrates their leadership and commitment to a healthier Northern Ontario. I am so excited about the partnership between NOSM and Collateral Damage, and the potential we have for inciting positive change in Northern Ontario.”

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NOSM Media Release; Suicide Awareness Training embedded in curriculum

NOSM Media Release; Suicide Awareness Training embedded in curriculum



3 thoughts on “Northern Ontario School of Medicine

  1. Congratulations to Scott and The Northern Ontario School of Medicine for this ground-breaking step. Suicide alertness and intervention skills training should be essential components in healthcare practitioners’ toolkits.

    Statistically, we are far more likely to meet a person with thoughts of suicide than someone having a heart attack. So many physical conditions or mental health conditions are linked to a risk of attempted or completed suicide that we need our health care staff to be able to engage with these people and help them to avoid suicide.

    This is wonderful news for us here in the UK and we are keen to share lessons learned by your partnership to help us influence health care training over here.

  2. Congratulations on this amazing feat – it is truly the right direction towards saving lives. This is truly inspiring for me to keep on with suicide prevention trainings and education. Thanks for all the hard work.

  3. Scott, as always, I remain impressed by your tireless commitment to the cause. With two young daughters facing an increasingly stressful world, my wife and I are in the same position as many parents out there. Basic awareness, strategies and resource availability should be part of every parent, caregiver and practitioner’s suicide prevention “toolkit”. I hope you can sit back one day and reflect on how many lives have been/will be saved as a result of your personal sacrifice and commitment.
    Dennis Wood (CEO, Cinevate)

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