JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- A group of multi-service Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates from various military organizations throughout the Hampton Roads area met for a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshop held the at the Fort Eustis Chapel.

McDonald Army Health Center Commander Lt. Col. Vincent Myers hosted the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (A.S.I.S.T.) event for 25 Joint Service SARC's and VA's. In his opening remarks Myers stated that the effort was coordinated in support of skills enhancement relating to crisis intervention, prevention, and advocacy in the sexual assault arena.

"I think this is one of the most critical skills out there. You are dealing with cases and individuals [who] are in a very fragile state and fragile situations. The criticality of this workshop is saving lives, and you save lives, you take care of those individuals in their darkest days, and they remember that." said Myers.

Sexual assault is a violent crime that traumatizes victims and detracts from readiness. According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, 33 percent of sexual assault victims have suicidal thoughts, and 13 percent will attempt to commit suicide.

The MCAHC SARC reached out to the Family Life Chaplain/Pastoral Services located at the Fort Eustis Chapel to administer the A.S.I.S.T. workshop.

Jerry Friend, Christa Zayas, and Kate Starcheer, all qualified A.S.I.S.T trainers, facilitated the two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid. "A.S.I.S.T teaches participants to recognize when someone may have thoughts of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety," said Friend.

SARC's and VA's are trained to escort a person who has thoughts of suicide to a supervisor, a chaplain, behavioral health professional, or primary care provider.

"The A.S.I.S.T program allows SARC's and VA's to become first responders if a victim is contemplating suicide. However, the A.S.I.S.T program asks you to be more involved in the person at risk's recovery process, thus bridging the gap," said Stacy Taylor, SARC, for McDonald Army Health Center.

During the course, each of the instructors helped the participants understand the concepts of A.S.I.S.T by showing suicide intervention videos and using role-play that allowed the participants to view the model at work, while fully engaging them in suicide-intervention scenarios as caregivers.

Now certified caregivers, SARC's and VA's will return to their respective units with the ability to provide care at initial contact with victims of sexual assault who are contemplating suicide.

"A.S.I.S.T enhances SHARP Professionals' crisis intervention skills by including a step between crisis intervention and resource referral. This extra step allows for understanding of the victim's history regarding mental health challenges, intoxicant abuse, spiritual and family connections. These factors can contribute negatively or positively towards a victim's ability to be resilient. The SHARP professional's efforts produced towards gaining this knowledge will potentially establish rapport with the victim at a meaningful level, ultimately avoiding loss of life, and detriment to unit readiness," said Taylor.

If you are experiencing a crisis, or have a friend or family member in crisis, call:
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Press '1' for the Military Crisis Line
Text to 838255