ASIST trains GW sailors in effective suicide intervention

Base Info
U.S. and Japanese ships steam in formation behind the USS George Washington in this file photo. Adam K. Thomas/Courtesy U.S. Navy
U.S. and Japanese ships steam in formation behind the USS George Washington in this file photo. Adam K. Thomas/Courtesy U.S. Navy

ASIST trains GW sailors in effective suicide intervention

by: MC3 Beverly J. Lesonik | .
USS George Washington PAO | .
published: June 12, 2014

PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) -- Sailors participated in the first, underway Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) class aboard the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), June 10-11.

ASIST aims to provide Sailors with the proper techniques and tools to recognize and handle a suicidal situation.

"This is the first time ASIST is being held underway in the Navy," said Lt. Brian Kirschenbaum, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 chaplain. "It was first brought into effect in the military by the Army less than 10 years ago."

According to Kirschenbaum, suicides have decreased and more service members are feeling comfortable enough to ask for help since the start of ASIST in the military.

"A higher statistic of Sailors reporting thoughts of suicide does not mean more Sailors are contemplating suicide," said Cmdr. Jon Conroe, head chaplain of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15. "It is proving to us that more military members feel comfortable coming out with those thoughts and seeking help. If more service members seek help, there are less chances of them acting on their thoughts."

ASIST provided Sailors various practical exercises to get them familiar with ways to engage a situation like suicide.

"We are trying to teach Sailors to intervene," said Conroe. "The Navy does well at suicide prevention, but we are trying to fill the gap between shipmates who are first responders and those who are showing signs of suicide."

Twenty-seven junior enlisted and officers attended the two-day class from George Washington and its embarked air wing, CVW 5.

"It is our goal to have a trained ASIST Sailor in as many departments and squadrons as we can," said Kirschenbaum. "If anybody had suicidal thoughts, we need for all of them to have someone right there who knows how to handle the situation."

According to Conroe and Kirschenbaum, suicide intervention is similar to first aid.

"Every Sailor should be taught CPR, but not every Sailor is going to learn how to do surgery," said Conroe. "Same thing with suicide intervention. They may not have the years of schooling to be a counselor or chaplain, but they can be first responders to talk to shipmates and get them further help if they need it."

ASIST is designed to be part of a greater community made up of medical, counselors, chaplains, Fleet and Family Support, and family members. They can all work together to get every service member the help they need.

"Sometimes Sailors with suicidal thoughts just need someone to talk to," said Kirschenbaum. "Some Sailors won't open up to medical or chaplains, so we want to train a community of Sailors who trust their shipmates enough to open up and feel like they can safely seek help."

Not every Sailor needs professional help and ASIST trains Sailors to help shipmates get through a time in their lives and maintain resiliency through hardships.

"Everything in class has given me the tools I need to talk with anyone I perceive may be having suicidal thoughts," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Jeck Maigue, from Subic, Philippines. "Suicide is a problem in the military and I am thankful for the training I received to help other people in my squadron who are at risk."

George Washington plans to conduct more ASIST training classes and Sailors are encouraged to get involved.    

George Washington and CVW 5 provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.

Tags: Yokosuka Naval Base, Base Info
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