Raising suicide awareness through ask, care, escort training

By Cpl. Park, Min-jeAugust 27, 2017

The Army has designated September as Suicide Prevention Month and joins the nation in observing National Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 10-16, 2017. A recent eighth Army Operations Order designated Sept. 14, 2017, Suicide Prevention Observance Day. The suicide prevention observance campaign acknowledges suicide as a threat to the total Army and aims to achieve zero suicides in Eighth Army. The theme is "Be There -- Your action could save a life!"

The campaign focuses on total Army Family well-being, resilience, stigma reduction and positive results achieved by getting involved and reaching out for help. The goal is to increase unit readiness to "Fight Tonight" by enhancing health promotion, personal readiness, and resilience through character and value development, and positive outcome activities, using available resources.

All units are to conduct activities for the observance, training for Soldiers and DA Civilians, and Family members to increase awareness of suicide-risk factors and warning signs as well as intervention with at-risk individuals; promote available resources to the community; and implement Soldier Risk Reduction Tool-Korea (SLRRT-K).

Suicide prevention training is required every year for all Soldiers and civilian employees) in accordance with Army Regulation 600-63. Ask, care and escort training is the Army-approved suicide prevention and awareness training model. ACE is approximately 1.5 hours, and the key training objective is awareness training, to include risk factors and warning signs.

Suicide awareness made headlines recently with the Netflix television series "13 Reasons Why," which deals with the suicide of a high school girl who leaves behind 13 tapes explaining the reasons why she took her own life. This series was controversial for its graphic nature and adult content, putting parents and educators on alert in ensuring students were properly informed on the nature of the show.

Below are some statistics provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

• Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

• Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide.

• Suicide costs the United States $51 billion annually.

• On average, there are 121 suicides per day.

Also according to Defense Suicide Prevention Office, a total of 31 active duty Army members killed themselves during the first quarter of 2017, and 127 died in 2016. This number is appropriately double the per capita suicide rate of the total U.S. population, highlighting suicide awareness as a high priority for the Army.

Risk factors for suicide

There are many risk factors for suicides. Many are diagnosed with depression or a mental disorder. Other factors according to the ASFP include suicide attempts, a family history of suicide or violence, physical or sexual abuse, and exposure to the suicidal behavior of others.

According to U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan Chaplain Lt. Col. Terrell Jones, in the military, financial troubles and investigations in wrongdoings have been factors in suicides. Combat trauma and transitions amplify the risk of suicide since they can disrupt social and interpersonal relationships in the military, according to the AFSP.

How to help out those in danger

ACE Training puts emphasis on those surrounding the at-risk person to pick up on the signs of someone hurting, said Jones. The signs can include anything from talking about dying to giving away valuables or projecting hopelessness and inconsolable sadness. The training is very much in line with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) five action steps to help people in suicidal danger.

1. Ask: The question, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?" is not an easy question to ask somebody. Surprisingly, studies show that asking individuals the question does not increase suicide or suicidal thoughts, and it can help identify those at risk.

2. Keep them safe: It is helpful to insulate suicidal tendencies against tools that could aid in the suicide, such as guns and drug.

3. Be there: It's important that you take the warning signs seriously. Listen to the person carefully, but do not dismiss the person's concerns or argue with the person. It is suggested that acknowledging and talking about suicide may help those at risk.

4. Help them connect: In many cases, it is difficult solve the problem alone. It can be helpful to take a potential victim to a mental health professional. The Korea-wide suicide prevention toll-free hotline is 118 from DSN or 0808-555-118 from a commercial line. For Yongsan, the on-call chaplain's number is 010-4793-0143. If the situation seems urgent, you should take the person to a nearby hospital for assistance.

5. Stay connected

Just being there for someone can save a person's life.