FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 25, 2010) -- Thirty-five Soldiers of the Missouri National Guard attended a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training to develop their suicide intervention and prevention awareness, Aug. 18 - 19, at the Installation Chaplain's Office.
"The Army is killing itself," Chap. (Maj.) Gregory Thogmartin said, reciting a chilling "Army Times" headline.
Thogmartin, chaplain for the U. S. Fort Leonard Wood Army Engineer School, helped facilitate the training event and highlighted the significance of conducting ASIST for military members.
"It is obvious that military personnel and family members are under a great deal of stress. ASIST training, as well as the ACE Suicide Prevention and Suicide Intervention programs, are tools that help us identify people in pain ... then enables us to establish a connection with them, ask appropriate questions ... and identify the next steps towards safety, health and wholeness," Thogmartin said.
Attendees, made up of chaplains, chaplain assistants, medical personnel and some senior personnel, divided into three small groups to learn about prevention and intervention methods, to participate in role-play activities and to discuss real-life scenarios.
According to Thogmartin, ASIST prepares individuals in offering "psychological first aid" for people under stress who may be considering suicide.
"ASIST offers a mental framework for how to connect with a hurting individual and move towards understanding their pain and through to intervention and renewed hope," Thogmartin said.
"Because of the high suicide rates, this has given us an opportunity to let others know how to assist anybody who says they want to commit suicide," added Chap. (Capt.) Jeff Militti, training instructor, from the 193rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
The high suicide numbers, which reached a record-breaking number of 245 Soldiers in 2009, continue to rise in 2010 as June alone saw 32 Soldiers committing suicide, the highest number in a single month since the Vietnam era, according to a recent Department of Defense article.
However, with September being recognized as the Suicide Prevention Month, it is obvious that the Army has implemented an aggressive program to address one key factor: hopelessness. With specialized trainings and personnel on Army installations worldwide, individuals have a gateway to get the help they may need.
"In a sense, ASIST trained personnel are able to offer hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless," Thogmartin said. "By doing so, they will increase the self-worth of those who may perceive themselves as worthless."
ASIST training is held on a monthly basis on the fourth Wednesday and Thursday of each month at the installation chaplain's complex, Bldg. 6501. Units can register personnel by e-mailing leon.chfamilylife@conus.army.mil.
"This training was very important for us. It gave us as leaders full training to help facilitate care ... so we can be there for all the unit's needs," said Chap. (Maj.) Laird Thompson, trainee, from the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, Missouri Army National Guard.

(Editor's note: Emily Athens is a photojournalist with the Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., newspaper, the GUIDON.)

Page last updated Wed August 25th, 2010 at 11:25