By 10th PCHJune 5, 2009
Special Troops Battalion XVIII Airborne Corps completed Phase II of the Army's three-step suicide prevention training late last month.
Chaplain (Capt.) Edward A. Coy, STB, hosted a series of Phase II training sessions known as "Shoulder-to-Shoulder" for senior NCOs at platoon level to provide skills for the recognition and early intervention for a potential suicide victim.
These NCOs will, in turn, train their squad leaders to ensure suicide prevention capabilities exist at the lowest level.
Through "Shoulder to Shoulder," NCOs learned techniques to better recognize personnel in crisis, act upon their concerns and coordinate viable resources, wrote Coy.
Coy conducted the sessions in small groups of five in his office to provide an atmosphere more conducive to sharing real experiences, a cornerstone of this phase's training.
"These 'train the trainer' sessions were designed to foster trust," said Coy. Training included program overview, current suicide trends, risk factors and warning signs, a testimonial video, reviews of the various hip pocket reference cards and vignettes/scenarios.
"The training aides were phenomenal," said Sgt. 1st Class Robyn Young, command group, XVIII Abn. Corps. Young, a 19-year veteran, said the video was extremely effective by focusing on real people with current experiences.
"I think the training showed these situations are applicable to all, not just those deployed. It reminded me that others may be struggling right now. It made me stop to refocus and truly, really listen to those around me," she said.
The video highlighted senior leaders revealing their personal experiences and encouraging all to be strong enough to push past the stigma historically associated with mental health care to seek help.
Coy recalled suicide prevention as a young enlisted Soldier in 1974 and said today's Army leadership has more overall awareness and a demonstrated commitment to intervention.
Already he said he has seen a difference since completion of Phase I training in March noting Soldiers' willingness to invite the chaplain into their lives to talk had increased tremendously.
"Soldiers have felt that others do care and because of the training, are willing to talk about options. Leaders have become confident in providing support, direction and options and state they feel that counseling will lead to real support and not 'just an out'," Coy said.
He explained that Soldiers should be willing to ask fellow Soldiers if they are contemplating suicide, to demonstrate care for their buddy and escort them to the chain of command or other health specialist as appropriate. This technique is referred to as "ACE" which stands for Ask, Care and Escort to ensure those in crisis are not left alone.
Coy concluded by reminding the leaders that suicide awareness should not be applied exclusively to young Soldiers and that these same conditions and risks exist among their peers and in senior ranks as well.
Resources for support include chains of command, chaplains, installation mental health offices, Military One Source, the Military and Family Life consultant at Fort Bragg 391-9171 or the crisis hotlines at 1-800-273-TALK.