BELLE CHASSE, La. –
Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or ASIST, developed in 1983, is a two-day 16-hour interactive workshop that prepares caregivers to provide suicide first-aid intervention for someone who may be contemplating suicide.
The U.S. Army Reserve’s 85th Support Command and 76th Operational Response Command hosted an ASIST Training workshop, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, January 20-21, 2022.
“The ASIST training is about helping people talk to someone that may have a suicide ideation and keep them safe for now. Meaning you could be walking down the street and see somebody on a bridge and this class is supposed to give you the tools to be able to assist that person to get some help to be safe,” said Sgt. 1st Class Veronica Moore, Suicide Prevention Liaison, 177th Armored Brigade.
During the ASIST course participants are trained in the Pathway for Assisting Life (PAL) model. Students are taught to recognize signs and ask about whether a person is contemplating suicide. They learn to listen to the person’s story and understand why they are contemplating suicide. Lastly, they are taught to develop a safe plan with the individual and confirm the follow through of this plan.
“What sets this training apart is that it gives our suicide prevention liaisons the opportunity to get a little more in-depth training on how to actually recognize and intervene with people who might be at risk of suicide,” said C. Tyler Montgomery, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, 76th ORC.
“When I talk to people across the Army Reserve and just even friends out in the civilian population, one of the biggest concerns is what are the signs and how to recognize suicidality,” said Montgomery. “But even if I do recognize that somebody is acting different than they normally do, what do I do then? What do I say? There has to be that perfect thing to say right?"
Montgomery further shared that a lot of people want to help they don't know how, and this training really set the standard and is research based in the way that makes people feel more comfortable in approaching people.
Chief Warrant Officer John Brasfield, Command Chief Warrant Officer, 85th USARSC, attended the ASIST workshop as an observer, met with the training audience, and shared his thoughts on the topic.
“Every death by suicide is a tragedy. It profoundly impacts Soldiers, family, and friends in the individual’s life. It also has far-reaching negative impacts on units and operational readiness,” said Brasfield.
According to the ASIST workshop organizers they have received extensive positive feedback from past participants of the class.
“We've had lots of success stories. Participants call all the time, and a lot of times it happens right after they leave the class, like within that first week. They find themselves in that caregiver role and they'll call for backup and ask hey am I doing this right? what do I need to do next?,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ariesa Evans, who has been an ASIST trainer since 2017.
“The most common feedback from those who take this class is that they've been able to intervene before it got to a point where somebody was on that life-or-death crisis. Where they notice signs and they've been able to talk to people who maybe contemplated suicide but did not have a suicidal plan,” said Montgomery. “They were able to intervene at point before it ever got to that place and get them resources, got them connected to people, showed that they cared, maybe figure out what problems were going on in their life and the person never got to the point where they were they actually had a plan to take their life.”
For anyone contemplating suicide, Carmella Navarro, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, 85th USARSC emphasized how critical it is to seek help.
“They are not alone in those thoughts. There are many people who feel the same way. Those thoughts can be extremely isolating and it's important to know that there are others they can reach out to that will listen and let them process what they're thinking and feeling, and hopefully allow them to see that there is a connection to life,” said Navarro. “So I would say find that person you trust, call the Veterans hotline and know that there's not going to be a judgment when you reach out, it's going to be how can I help you.”
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the Veterans Crisis Hotline at 800-273-8255 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.