VILSECK, Germany - In 2018, 321 active duty service members took their own lives. As adopted by the U.S. Army in 2009, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is a workshop that trains leaders in life-saving suicide intervention skills. In turn, leaders are equipped with the skills and knowledge to train their Soldiers.
Service members assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria participate in monthly suicide prevention workshop in Vilseck, Germany, Nov. 6, 2019.
"ASIST is an excellent tool to enable leaders at all levels to face suicide head-on," said Capt. Andy Vaughn, chaplain, 2nd Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment.
The workshop participants are split into two groups. All participants have different backgrounds and diverse upbringings. Throughout the course they share personal experiences in exercises, complete surveys of their opinions on certain subjects and tell stories from their own lives. During a group exercise, one U.S. Army Soldier shared his experience of attempted suicide and how he in the end sought help and overcame the negative feelings that drove him over the edge.
"You're here to become a life assistant trainer with the potential to save lives," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Spittle, Radar Technician, 7th Weather Squadron.
The ASIST program trains service members to understand the needs of a person at risk of suicide, often referred to as suicide first aid. Through the train the trainer method the military community will learn the skills to better identify Soldiers having suicidal thoughts and learn ways to help prevent Soldier suicide.
"The lifeguard pulling the helpless out of a river of suicidal thoughts," explained Spittle.
Communication is the overarching theme in this program. By identifying those who may be having suicidal thoughts and improving the understanding of other's emotions or attitudes, ASIST qualified personnel will gain the trust and confidence of those who are at risk.
If a person seems to be at risk of committing suicide, transparency and honesty is key to intervening and establishing a dialogue. Simply talking with an at-risk Soldier can inspire trust and relief.
Vaughn recalled several instances where Soldiers who previously completed the ASIST course approached him for help after identifying risks within themselves or other comrades.
"We have many resources available to our service members," said Vaughn. "They can feel free coming to their leadership, unit chaplain or behavioral health facilities to be assessed and treated."
Protecting the community by identifying the risks, understanding the thoughts of the person at risk and potentially rescuing them from imminent danger are the skills you can learn from attending an ASIST course.
If you would like to attend an assist course please contact your unit's chaplain, Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers representative or your local Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care facility for dates and locations.