USA: Sailors, Civilians Take Part in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training

Sailors, Civilians Take Part in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training

Sailors and civilians participated in an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop in Building 2000 on Naval Station Everett (NSE), Jan. 30-31.

The course, taught by NSE and other Navy Region Northwest chaplains, was designed to provide Sailors with the tools to aid those with suicidal thoughts that they may come into contact with.

ASIST is part of a Navy-wide suicide prevention effort.

 “We have had a record number of suicides in the Navy in recent years, and this is a very sad and unfortunate trend,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Carter, NSE command chaplain, and primary instructor of the course. “There are a lot of caring Sailors out there who want to help their shipmates, and our job as ASIST instructors is to provide them the skills to do so.”

ASIST is geared toward providing “first aid” care to persons with suicidal thoughts. This is done by first recognizing a person at risk for suicide, giving that person someone compassionate and caring to confide in, and then providing them with the professional help they may need.

The course is for anyone, regardless of rank, welcoming officers, senior enlisted, junior enlisted and civilians alike. Though ASIST is taught somewhat from a leadership perspective, the class is intended for all Sailors or civilians who may come into contact with someone with suicidal thoughts, said Carter.

“Though Sailors in frontline leadership roles have a unique position to help the Sailors under them, rank and status doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things,” said Carter. “Any Sailor, or any human being, could be at risk, and anyone could be in the position to help, not only leaders.”

The course was also very beneficial to civilians as well as Sailors, according to Tia Lindquist, the Ombudsman of USS Shoup (DDG 86), who attended the workshop.

 “This class has made me so much more prepared to help the suicidal people I might deal with being an Ombudsman,” said Lindquist. “Now I know I can make a difference.”

ASIST instructors made an effort to provide a relaxed learning environment by asking Sailors to attend the class in civilian attire.

 “We have found that Sailors tend to be more at-ease when they wear the clothes that they are comfortable in,” said Carter. “This also allows for a relaxed environment free of rank, making it easier for Sailors to talk openly and honestly as equals.”

The course was also taught in participation-oriented, small group-format, further removing it from the feel of a formal class setting. Simulation and role playing were also frequently utilized, in order to give students the practical means to deal with real-life situations.

 “This class helped very much to better organize my approach to helping people who struggle with suicidal thoughts,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Michael Arroyo, who attended the ASIST course. “The role-playing, realism and simulations in this course have helped me to feel much more confident in my skills to help my shipmates.”

The workshop is meant to be an in-depth introduction to techniques to help those having suicidal thoughts. It is also designed to give students a better understanding of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, making it easier to recognize those at risk. Compassion and caring are also key components, according to Carter.

 “This class was very in-depth, and really increased my knowledge on how to help the people around me that are hurting,” said Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class (SW) Mark Gardner, who attended the course. “It gave me lots of useful tools I can use in the future.”

Naval Station Everett’s efforts to increase suicide awareness are ongoing, according to Carter. An abbreviated version of the ASIST course is planned to be offered this spring.

 “In the end, it’s all about saving lives, and that is the most important job of all. Every life is precious,” said Carter.

Naval Today Staff, February 4, 2013; Image: US Navy