By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josh Bennett, Navy Public Affairs Support Element-East Detachment Europe
You just got off watch and you’re tired. All you can think about is jumping in your rack and getting some much needed rest. Just as you put your head on your pillow, you hear a knock on the door. It’s your closest friend on base and you immediately notice he is upset so you ask him what’s wrong. After an awkward pause, he tells you life isn’t worth living anymore; he wants to take his own life.
An average of four Sailors kill themselves each month.
The effects of suicide can be devastating to a family, command and even a whole community. The question many people are asking is “how can we prevent someone from killing themselves?” One resource available to assist people in the prevention of suicide is the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).
ASIST is being offered at many military bases around the world in an effort to reduce the amount of suicides by training people in suicide intervention skills, providing service members an opportunity to learn more about the subject and providing resources for people in need.
“Suicide is a growing problem in the military community and needs an increased level of attention,” said Cmdr. C. Michael Pumphrey, director of Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operations (CREDO).
Pumphrey said it is important to get as many Sailors as possible trained in suicide intervention skills. The workshop lasts two days and concentrates on training people on how to intervene in the event that you come across somebody that is contemplating suicide.
“I think the skills we learned can be used throughout the Navy, regardless of rank,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Nicole Peters, ASIST workshop participant. “If I could get my whole command to go through the training, I would.”
The training is already seeing positive effects. A Sailor assigned to USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) prevented a man from jumping off of the Coronado Bay Bridge in California and credited his ability to talk the man off the ledge to his training in an ASIST workshop.
“The story about the Sailor saving the man on the bridge is literally living proof of the value of ASIST,” said Capt. Alan M. Hansen, regional chaplain for Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia (CNREURAFSWA).
Pumphrey said he tries to offer ASIST workshops every three months in his region. He also said that he plans to offer even more ASIST workshops next year. He wants people to be aware of not only the issue of suicide, but also of the fact that there are ways to help people with suicidal thoughts.
“We very much value what ASIST has to offer and the skills people can learn from it,” said Pumphrey. “Therefore, we want to continue it.”
Another positive impact of the intervention skills learned during the ASIST workshop is the amount of resources it creates.
Every person who goes through the program becomes a resource that is capable of helping someone with suicidal thoughts.
“Because we will have this larger and larger pool of people who are more prepared to respond to people who are at risk for suicide, we should be able to reduce the number of suicides,” said Pumphrey.
Advocacy is another resource created by the workshop. The chaplains said they hope the participants of the program will be encouraged to explain to their commanders the significance of allowing their Sailors to take the two days from their command to be a part of the training. They said this program is able to offer skills that the hour-long training Sailors usually receive on suicide just can’t provide.
“Those training lectures talk about prevention,” said Hansen. “This is about intervention and these skills are absolutely essential in the outcome.”
The chaplains said they want to train as many people as they possibly can through the ASIST workshop. The skills learned in this two-day workshop provide people with the skills needed to know what to do when they get that knock on the door from a friend struggling with depression or drive by that man standing on the ledge of a bridge. The more people that learn these skills, the more resources the military will have in fighting the battle against suicide in the armed forces.