FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 31, 2013) -- Last Year, the U.S. Armed Forces lost nearly 350 service members to suicide -- more than were killed in combat -- and the Fort Rucker Army Substance Abuse Program is working to bring that number down.

There have been 127 suicides across the Army as of May 24, and of those, 26 were young males from the age of 18-25, said Traci Dunlap, ASAP suicide prevention program manager.

"This age group has been considered most at risk for suicide in the past, but the demographic of those who commit suicide in the Army is changing," she said. "Suicide among officers and NCOs is on the rise, and we must look for risk factors in anyone in our lives." ASAP is offering classes for those in direct contact with Soldiers to do their part to help "in the moment," added Dunlap.

The Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is a two-day class June 12-13 that teaches individuals the skills they need to help those that may show signs of suicide, said Dunlap.

"The classes are designed for what we call gatekeepers here on the installation," she said. "These are people who are most likely to come in contact with someone who presents with ideation or thoughts of suicide, so they are the ones who need to know how to respond to someone in that moment."

Those labeled as gatekeepers include: chaplains and chaplain assistants; ASAP counselors; Family advocacy program workers; behavioral health counselors; Army Emergency Relief counselors; emergency room medical technicians; medical and dental health professionals; military police; inspectors general; trial defense lawyers and legal assistants; DOD school counselors; Red Cross workers and first-line supervisors and Unit Victim Advocates.

"Through the process, you help the person at risk to find some hope in their situation so that they can move forward," said Dunlap. "It's a very specific model that they'll learn and they'll leave (the training session) with these new skills."

Upon completion, those that attend the classes will receive a card that they can carry with them to help them remember the process step-by-step, and they can use this in the event they come across someone that needs help, she added.

"You can never really tell when something is going to happen, and if you help a person identify the reasons for living, then you can give them some hope, even if it's just to get them to the next day," said the program manager. "ASIST is basically suicide first aid -- it's only in that moment -- we're trying to keep them safe, it's very important to know what to do at those times."

The classes will last eight hours per day and only 30 spots are available per class, and although the classes are available to anyone who wishes to attend, Dunlap said that gatekeepers get priority.

"You never know what you can do or how positive words could impact someone's life," she said. "Most people aren't counselors, but a couple positive words could help somebody move forward in their life --- we're talking about saving lives and you've got to be ready to respond."

For more information or to register in advance, call 255-7010.