Suicide prevention class saves lives
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Misawa Air Base Chapel held a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training course here, Jan. 28 and 29.
This workshop, held quarterly since 2013, is based on a curriculum teaching military and family members suicide intervention skills.
"Conducting this training combats unpreparedness in service members," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Tatum, 35th Fighter Wing Staff Agencies chaplain assistant and ASIST instructor. "It provides the tools needed to assist others with suicidal thoughts and actions at the peer and unit levels."
The structure of the training is divided into five sections: preparing, connecting, understanding, assisting and networking.
Preparing leads participants into the topic by explaining the expectations for the course. Understanding how personal attitudes affect suicide intervention is taught through the connecting section. Section three involves understanding how to identify the risk of suicide and create plans to reduce said risk.
Through simulated experiences with the group, participants learn to assist someone in need.
"The training goes over situations and what to say to someone at risk of suicide," said Tatum.
Scenarios included helping someone prepared to jump off a bridge, an elderly gentleman planning to turn his car on in the garage and an isolated high school student who planned to shoot himself. All circumstances were shown through a combination of videos and a chaplain playing roles.
"We talked about what steps could be taken to help them," said Staff Sgt. Melissa Bokesch, a 35th Operations Support Squadron aviation resource management member and a Fort Hood, Texas, native. "It makes everything very realistic.
The final step is to show someone the importance of networking, or providing the tools to discover information about local resources. At Misawa AB, these resources include mental health, the crisis hotline, chaplains and the military family life counselor.
"After helping someone find a reason to want help, you can give them resources to go to for support," said Airman 1st Class Bakari Tate, a 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment apprentice who hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. "Sometimes people need to talk and they just want someone to listen."
Before taking the class, Bokesch and Tate had been in situations where they helped someone contemplating suicide. After the course, they expressed a deep understanding of the necessary steps leading a person out of a dark place.
"We usually have a class of 30 people who leave with a new way to help the people who need it most," Tatum said. "They use these tools when coming across someone at risk at home or work."
Through sharing personal stories and learning in large and small groups, participants experienced practice for handling life threatening situations.
"The level of information people leave with is immeasurable," Tatum said. "This training has and will continue to save countless lives."