News: 4th CAB hosts suicide intervention class
Story by Sgt. Jonathan Thibault
FORT CARSON, Colo. - Soldiers have a new tool to help intervene and prevent suicides in their units after completing a five-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training at Provider Chapel, July 10.
The training, hosted by the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, was available to soldiers from every unit on Fort Carson.
“Over the years, suicide related deaths in the military have taken a toll on our armed forces, and our soldiers deserve as much help as we can provide,” said Staff Sgt. Christine Mangus, brigade chaplain’s assistant, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
ASIST is a program taught by Living Works, an international organization that teaches many different suicide intervention classes and has been helping the Army for 24 years.
“In 1989, the U.S. Army V Corps invited Living Works to deliver ASIST to the European Command in Germany as part of the Army’s ‘Fit to Win’ health program,” said Gerry Dooley, team leader, Living Works.
Living Works partnered with Army Materiel Command and Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, in 2002-2003 to develop ASIST-R, a post-training reinforcement program.
“This was a pilot test of a virtual simulation skills retention program for the Department of Defense. Army G-1 formally confirmed ASIST as the suicide intervention-training program for the Army in 2009,” Dooley said.
“It’s a program that has helped people for the past 30 years,” he said. “This program was designed to try and understand the needs for a person at risk of suicide. We teach the trainers certain skill sets to help them interrupt thoughts of suicide and embed a better state of well-being in a person.”
As part of a new pilot program, Joint Task Force Carson soldiers were the first to receive certification with the latest version of the ASIST training, known as ASIST 11.
The program focused on developing trainers, who must progressively teach to stay certified, said Mangus.
“We learn to listen to the reasons for suicide, try to get them to talk about their reasons for living and bring them to a safe place where they are not going to hurt themselves,” said Mangus. “We have too many people committing suicide. This training prepares soldiers to teach intervention of suicides and how to handle situations involving suicides at their unit. Trainers must teach three classes within the first year of certification. Then, soldiers must teach at least one class per year after that to stay certified.”
Dooley said the overall goal of the training will be to eliminate stigmas that some soldiers view as negative when trying to receive help for mental disorders and help prevent suicide entirely.
“The military has its own culture or sense of community that influence stigmas of getting help,” said Dooley. “When you institute a program like ASIST, it takes a while to work, but you do get a cultural shift and change. It starts with a small attitudinal shift, which becomes a cultural shift and ultimately a community shift. Those stigmas will then become less of an influence.”
Dooley has been teaching these suicide intervention classes for 27 years and recalls a success story because of the skills he has taught.
“In 1991, a woman came in one day who lost her partner to suicide,” said Dooley. “Her partner even talked about suicide, and she didn’t know what to say. After the suicide of her partner, she went into a deep depression. After going through this program, she was able to release a lot of the guilt that she felt towards herself and came to terms with roles that she was responsible for in her relationship. Within a few months, she returned back to work. Ever since, she has called me to let me know that she is all right.”
Fort Carson soldiers and leaders will have more chances to go through the course and pass on those skills learned from the program to their units.
“Sometime in October, 4th CAB will host another ASIST training session,” said Mangus. “I am one of 30 Fort Carson soldiers that are ASIST 10 certified. At a date to be determined, me and the other certified soldiers will get a chance to take a one-day class to get our certification upgraded to ASIST 11."
“This is the best training that I’ve seen regarding suicide intervention. The soldiers that go through this course will provide skills and become better caregivers, who can be utilized by their units to help reduce suicides,” she added.