Using ACE-SI Training to 'Be a Light' for Those Struggling With Their Mental Health

By Mia Robinson, Army Resilience DirectorateSeptember 3, 2021

Master Resilience Trainer Kimberly Crowell’s journey in suicide prevention began at the age of 19 with the death by suicide of her 17-year-old sister. It wasn’t until Crowell participated in the Survivors of Suicide International Conference (for people who have lost family or friends to suicide to find and receive support) that someone explained that when someone is experiencing severe depression or having suicidal thoughts, it’s like “being trapped in a very deep, dark well – where the walls are slippery and it’s hard to get out – but at the very top of that well there is a little bit of light and that light is their hope.”

“I looked at it as an opportunity to be someone else’s light,” said Crowell. “We are the ones to give hope through communication.”

Communication is important to someone who is having thoughts of suicide. Crowell suggests having a “phone free zone” and engaging in face-to-face conversations at the dinner table with Family and asking, “How was your day?” “What was the best part of your day?” “What was the worst part of your day?”

“Talk about it and figure out some solutions or just allow that time to vent and go through the motions,” she said.

Crowell also stresses the importance of being an effective listener and not listening only to respond. When returning to work post COVID, instead of the typical “fly-by” question of “How are you today?” and response of “I’m good how are you?” while passing each other in the hallway, take a beat and ask your colleague, “How was your trip home this weekend?” or “Hey, I haven’t talked to you in a while, what’s been going on?” Actually, giving that time and attention to knowing and learning about other people and their Families, hobbies, the ups, downs, and in-betweens, or whatever they’re willing to share, is what helps build connections and establishes a sense of belonging which is a preventative factor for suicide.

“If I know I belong somewhere I’m less likely to have suicidal ideation,” said Crowell.

We have to be intentional with making sure that others feel they belong through our actions and how we communicate with them, she said.

Crowell recalls how well loved and liked her sister was. She was very well rounded, played sports, had friends, a part-time job, and they came from a close knit, loving family, and Crowell and her sister were also very close. However, during her research Crowell found that most people who have suicidal ideation feel isolated and often feel like they can’t share so they don’t share. A lot of times they don’t necessarily want to die but rather they just want the pain to go away.

Although Crowell is a counselor by trade, her career in counseling came by way of her love for helping high school, college, and professional level athletes recover from sports injuries physically and psychologically. Crowell always knew she wanted to be more effective at her job and to “be that light” for other people so her journey to helping others and giving back to the military community by being an MRT-PE segued into being an instructor for the Ask Care Escort – Suicide Intervention (ACE-SI) course.

“Working with Soldiers and their Families is my niche. Sports psychology is what brought me to my job, but resilience keeps me here,” said Crowell. “Putting Soldiers in a room for 10 days and seeing the growth and change in their own lives is really magical – you don’t know them, they don’t know you, but you put trust in each other – the fact that students walk away saying this is the best course they’ve taken, or it’s changed their life by having a positive impact on their relationships at home – it’s a very unique experience,” said Crowell. She credits Soldiers changing for the better by way of this course simply because they want to – they want to be better leaders, communicate more effectively, and be their authentic selves.

An ACE-SI training is centered around people “being that light” – being that person who intervenes, being intentional and being diligent in paying attention to risk factors and warning signs, being able to develop empathy skills and effective listening skills.

“The idea is not to fix or solve other people’s problems; you’re taking the time to truly understand what empathy looks, feels, and sounds like. Listen to them, recognize when they are in crisis, and help them get to the resources they need,” Crowell said. “We’re all dealing with something – we’re all human, we all struggle. When you recognize that in other people, slow down and listen. If you’re struggling, know you’re not alone.”

To schedule ACE-SI training, follow the link: https://www. R2/I-Want-to-Schedule-Training.html

Risk Factors:

•Owning a weapon – access to lethal means

•Poor coping skills – inability to handle stress and adversity

•Change in behavior

•Relationship difficulty – breakup/divorce

•Drug and/or alcohol misuse


Protective Factors:

• Social support (sense of belonging)

• Positive coping skills (manage stress effectively/ finding purpose/setting goals/exercise)

• Attitudes and beliefs (it’s OK to seek help; you don’t have to do it alone)


Warning Signs:

• Talking about suicide/death

• Expressing hopelessness and helplessness

• Sleep issues (not getting enough sleep affects judgment, ability to manage emotions)

• Increase in alcohol use/drug use

• Concerning texts or posts (social media/text)