Preventing suicides is a top priority
September 12, 2011
- September is Suicide Prevention Month
- ACE-SI gives everyone tools, talking points to intervene
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- A new, six-hour ACE-SI (Ask, Care, Escort-Suicide Intervention) course started at the Installation Training Center, here, Sept. 1.
Classes are held 9 a.m.-3 p.m., on the 1st and 4th Thursday of each month, and are conducted by Mylinda Morris, suicide prevention coordinator for the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.
While suicide remains a problem throughout the armed services, the situation within the Army is especially serious. The Army reported 32 suicides and potential suicides this July, the highest total since the service began publicly releasing such statistics more than two years ago.
So far this year, more than 160 Soldiers have apparently taken their own lives. By contrast, the Air Force has had 28 suicides; the Marines, 21; and the Navy, 33.
The Army hopes to address this problem through programs such as the new ACE-SI course, which is launching, here, just in time for September's Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The course seeks to provide Soldiers and civilians with skills to not only recognize the warning signs, but to also intervene and help prevent a suicide attempt.
ACE provides the tools and training to allow people to intervene to help those in trouble.
•"Ask" refers to the ability to ask someone directly if he or she is contemplating suicide.
•"Care" means controlling the situation and taking steps to prevent someone from causing self-injury.
•"Escort" is usually the final step, and it deals with escorting an individual somewhere to get help, such as a chaplain or health care professional.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the ACE system is the importance of never leaving a suicidal individual alone, a point consistently stressed throughout the training session.
"This class teaches people what to do when your 'battle buddy' needs help," Morris said. "Suicidal individuals want to talk to their peers, and we want people to have the skills they need to help a peer without being afraid of what to say or do."
The first class drew about a dozen attendees. One of the first things addressed was being able to recognize the warning signs that an individual may be suicidal. These include withdrawing from friends or family, giving away personal property, talking of suicide or of killing someone else, or exhibiting generally bizarre changes in behavior.
Related to warning signs are risk factors, such as relationship problems, substance abuse, trouble at work, death of a loved one, unmanaged stress and serious health issues.
After finding out how to recognize risk factors and warning signs, class attendees learned the basics of the ACE-SI system, particularly how to talk to a suicidal individual and how to engage in active listening.
For hands-on experience, the class was broken down into several groups of three and given various scenarios, so they could role-play what it is like to actually try to prevent a person from committing suicide. For many, this exercise was the most helpful segment.
"If someone says they want to commit suicide, what do you do?" said Capt. Elaina Hill, Soldier and Family Well-Being Division, G1, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. "The role-playing game gave me the opportunity to figure out what to say and do."
While many particpants were understandably a bit nervous about the prospect of what to say to a suicidal person, Morris stressed that just being there for someone contemplating killing him or herself can make all the difference.
"Most people considering suicide are willing to talk to someone," she said, "and just talking to someone may be enough to dissuade them."
Future sessions promise to train more Soldiers and civilians with the skills needed to help prevent suicides and save lives.
Staff Sgt. Thomas Carter, Company D, 53rd Signal Bn., 1st Space Brigade, said the class was "an invaluable resource for Soldiers and leaders."