JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Aug. 27, 2012) – In September, in recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, the U.S. Army is preparing to conduct a two-phase suicide prevention stand down for all soldiers, Army civilians, and family members to help reduce the number of suicides within the Army community.
More than 190 soldiers among every segment of the force have committed suicide this year.
The Missouri National Guard has had four soldiers take their own lives this year, said Capt. Robin Markham, the Missouri National Guard’s suicide prevention program manager.
“During the Army-wide suicide prevention stand down, we will conduct suicide awareness training to talk about the risk and protective factors as well as resilience and support services available for suicide intervention,” Markham said. “Command leadership is encouraged to conduct risk assessments on their Soldiers.”
The objective of the stand down is to develop the Missouri National Guard into a resilient force and keep it resilient, Markham added.
The Missouri National Guard is a force of approximately 11,500 soldiers and airmen. Since 2001, the Missouri Guard has had 34 apparent or confirmed suicides, the majority of which were young males. They were traditional, drilling Guardsmen and nearly half had never deployed.
One way to help prevent suicides is to find out what contributing factors could possibly trigger suicidal thoughts, Markham said.
“Maybe a soldier doesn’t have a job,” she said. “Not being able to provide for himself or his family could be a contributor. If that soldier comes to us, we have resources to help him find a job. If a soldier has medical issues going on, we can link him up with Veterans Affairs. Bottom line is, if a soldier is experiencing situational hardships, they should feel welcome to come to us and allow us to help.”
The Missouri National Guard’s resiliency team is located in the Patriot Center at the Ike Skelton Training Site. In the Patriot Center, Missouri Guardsmen and family members have available resources through the chaplain team, the employee assistance noncommissioned officer, the suicide prevention program manager, Missouri Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve staff, and other resources.
“Suicide prevention and awareness is something that the Missouri National Guard takes very seriously,” Markham said. “We want all of our members to know that we have resources available to them and we are willing to help if they should ever need it.”
Training is available for Guardsmen to become suicide intervention officers. Missouri Guardsmen can attend Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. ASIST is a two-day course designed to help recognize and intervene to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. The core training process includes lectures, mini-lectures, open-ended questioning, Socratic questioning, simulation experiences and whole group simulations.
“It is the intent that all of our commander’s across the state attend ASIST,” Markham said.
The training breaks a suicide intervention down into three phases: connecting, understanding and assisting, she said.
The phases form the foundation of the suicide intervention model. Within each phase, there are specific concerns that the caregiver must address through corresponding tasks.
“This training is beneficial because it trains our soldiers how to recognize when and how an intervention can unfold in response to the needs of a person at risk,” said Markham. “Soldiers shouldn’t be afraid to ask how their buddies are doing just because they don’t know how to respond to a suicidal soldier.”
Ask-Care-Escort training is also available. ACE is a suicide prevention training course that provides an opportunity to discuss and role-play realistic scenarios and practice communication and intervention skills.
The training of suicide intervention officers and select gatekeepers in applied suicide intervention skills training will increase the mission readiness of not only each individual Guardsman, but also their unit.
There are numerous programs and resources within the Missouri National Guard and outside of the organization available to military members in need.
The Missouri National Guard chaplain’s are available to assist those in a crisis. A care team map is available on www.moguard.com.
The Military Crisis Line is a toll-free, confidential resource available to veterans. They connect the servicemember with a Veterans Affairs responder. Military members and family can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at www.VeteransCrissiLine.net, or send a text message to 838255. VA responders are available 24 hours a day, every day.
Those in need can also call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647.
Those wanting more information on the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or other suicide prevention assistance, may contact Capt. Robin Markham at 573-638-9602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.