By Whitney Bliss, Presidio of Monterey Army Substance Abuse ProgramFebruary 26, 2010
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. Aca,!" "This is not business as usual." Those words, spoken by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, have become synonymous with the Army Suicide Prevention Program's redoubled efforts to slow the alarming trend of recent suicides. In 2009 the Army lost 160 Soldiers by confirmed or suspected suicides, a new record, up from 140 suicides in 2008, according to the USA Today article: Army's suicide 'crisis' leads to action.
The Army Family Covenant pledges leadership commitment to support Soldiers and their families and resource programs to provide them a quality of life commensurate with their service. The Army's Suicide Prevention Program is part of that pledge.
In an effort to safeguard Soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilians from harming themselves, the Army has placed its Suicide Prevention Program at the forefront of its newly reinforced health-promotion campaign.
Suicide prevention focuses on preventing normal life stressors from turning into life crises. These efforts emphasize resiliency and comprehensive Soldier fitness, and the Army aims to strengthen these assets by connecting Soldiers, families and DA civilians with resources to help cope with stress and overcome personal challenges related to finances, relationships, occupation and other life events.
Army Community Services periodically offers classes on anger and stress management, couples communication, parenting and Armed Forces Team Building, as well as individual financial readiness services and spousal employment services. All of these programs are part of the Army Family Covenant and encourage the total health and well-being of service members, families and DA civilians.
While it is the Army's goal to diminish suicide risk with its resiliency and life-management programs, the Army acknowledges that sometimes suicide intervention is needed to keep individuals from self-harm. Suicide intervention strives to prevent a life crisis from leading to suicidal gestures.
Part of the Presidio of Monterey's annual suicide prevention training is focused on the ACE model, which stands for Ask, Care, Escort.
The ACE model is a versatile tool for all members of the Army family that emphasizes directly addressing the topic of suicide, showing sympathy and concern for the person at risk and escorting that person to a supervisor or helping agency. Pocket-sized ACE reminder cards are distributed at every in-person suicide-awareness training event.
Army leaders also recognize the need for individuals with more advanced suicide-intervention training. Thus, the Army is actively promoting Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, known as ASIST, for military and civilian leaders, behavioral-health and medical-care providers, and others in a wide range of helping professions.
ASIST-trained individuals are able to assist those people at risk by confronting suicidal intent, actively listening, assessing immediate risk and connecting them to a variety of both local and national resources. The Presidio of Monterey will be offering its first of many scheduled ASIST workshops in March.
For further information regarding the Presidio of Monterey's suicide prevention program, contact Tanya Klein, Alcohol and Drug Control officer, at 831-242-6960 or Whitney Bliss, ASIST trainer, at 831-242-4131.