Misawa airmen ASIST in time for holidays
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- For many, the holidays bring excess - too much shopping, too much food, too many visitors or too much traveling.
For the Air Force, it brings too many suicides.
Typically, this time of year brings a spike in suicidal ideations with people who are deployed, away from family, single or recently divorced, according to 35th Fighter Wing Chaplain (Capt.) Michael Carollo.
The base chapel has educated about 100 Airmen here during several two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training sessions on how to get involved if they suspect someone is contemplating suicide.
"Our goal is to get someone trained in every shop on base so the base is more equipped to handle this problem," Carollo said.
ASIST stressed the three main phases in intervention - connecting, understanding and assisting. The training included role playing, which allowed participants to practice their ASIST. The material was heavy and the topics made participants very uncomfortable at times, but for at least one, it was worth it.
Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Staff, has seen the affects of suicide firsthand - her brother has attempted suicide twice, and she also helped console a very close friend whose boyfriend committed suicide while enlisted in the Air Force.
"Before ASIST I might not have addressed someone if they were showing suicidal behavior, just because I didn't know how to handle the situation," Brown said. "Every scenario that was acted out in ASIST could potentially be a true event and result in someone committing suicide. Now that I've had the opportunity to walk through asking those hard questions, I feel more comfortable addressing suicide head on and talking to people about it."
Fortunately, there have been zero suicides at Misawa within the last year.
"It's hard to say if that would have happened if we didn't have these extra 100 people trained, but we know zero is a good number and zero is what we want to continue to see," Carollo said. "We know that eliminating suicides completely is unrealistic, but we want to reduce that number as much as possible, as close to if not zero here at Misawa. I think it's making a huge difference on the base."
Airmen who have not received ASIST are still charged with intervening if they suspect anyone - friend, coworker or family member - is contemplating suicide.
"Stay with that person, and really try to connect with them," Carollo said. "Talk to them, listen to them. People are more likely to want to open up and connect to people they already know. Don't necessarily try to solve their problems, and help them get connected with someone else who can help.
"Help them know they're not alone, you're with them and you care about them," he continued.
These skills will last a lifetime, and potentially help someone else live an excessively happy life.