By J. Elise VanPoolNovember 8, 2011
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Nov. 08, 2011) -- Members of the Joint Sustainment Command- Afghanistan came together Oct. 31 through Nov. 1, to participate in suicide intervention training.
Representing units from all over Afghanistan, Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians came to learn techniques for helping their fellow service members who are contemplating suicide. Using the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training model, participants learned how to recognized and speak with a person who may be thinking about hurting themselves.
"This two day training prepares caregivers and first-line leaders to provide suicide first aid to persons at risk of suicide," said Lt. Col. Rose Bean, one of the trainers for the two day class.
Students in the class learned how to first connect and understand the person at risk, learning how talk with that person and address their concerns. Next, the students learned how to help that person seek assistance by helping them create a plan of action. The training emphasized tools and tactics for talking with a person at risk.
"Applied Suicide Intervention skills Training is a model that is used to assist caregivers with being able to recognize the signs of suicide." Bean said.
"It helped me to not be afraid when assisting or talking to someone who wants to commit suicide," said Kiaira Davis, deputy S-4 and housing manager for Army Field Support Battalion-Kandahar, 401st Army Field Support Brigade. "It taught me how to maybe help someone to get through it and seek help."
The Army and Army Reserve have been struggling with suicide among its members in recent years, with the number of suicides in the Army Reserve still increasing. The Army reported 145 members of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve committed suicide in the 2010. That is an increase of 80 from 2009.
"We think this training is important because suicide is still a hidden, taboo topic in the military. Even in this day and age, denial, secrecy, and avoidance remain common within our formations," said Sgt. Maj. Jose M. Picon, one of the trainers for the class. "We hope to influence the attendees to connect with people's attitudes towards suicide. We also hope this will help them to overcome bias notions or feelings that might hinder their willingness and ability to help individuals at risk."
The class concluded with students role playing both the person at risk and the person trying to assist them. Many of the scenarios were specific to the military community and helped the participant learn to deal with realistic situations. Some of the scenarios included a Soldier having family problems back home, while a second involved a married female warrant officer who had become pregnant by an enlisted coworker.
"Our intent is to provide information and help in meeting some of the challenges of reducing suicidal behavior. The class provides information that can help with the goal of creating life-assisting communities," said Picon.
The participants of the class will now serve as unit suicide intervention representatives in their respective units.
"The take away should be that anyone can be at risk of suicide," said Bean. "Anyone can have thoughts of suicide. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness."
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .