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NEWS | Feb. 15, 2023

Suicide prevention training is changing the culture to reduce suicide

By Staff Sgt. David Lietz 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command

The Soldier had just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. Upon returning home, he had a verbal argument with his girlfriend. The Soldier then told his girlfriend that he wanted to kill himself, so she told him to go ahead and do it. The Soldier later died from suicide.

“I knew this Soldier personally. I wish I had been there to be able to intervene,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lacheri Rennick, battalion S-1, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the 2-381st Training Support Battalion, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, Grand Prairie, Texas.

The three-day Ask Care Escort Suicide Intervention tier two training class provided tools for Soldiers to be an effective resource in preventing suicide.

“Our goal is to educate and prepare Soldiers to ask the hard question ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself,’” said Tifini Steif, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, 85th USARSC. “And to provide education on resources and counseling and to be a resource in the event of a suicide ideation attempt or completion.”

Students also learned a variety of suicide prevention tactics including using gun locks on weapons and self-soothing techniques, like bilateral stimulation, which can help the brain process daily events, according to Rhonda Gilchrist, Psychological Health Program Director, 63rd Readiness Division.

“You are going to process your day. You are going to run a tape like a movie preview of everything you did that day,” said Gilchrist. “We are teaching it to fireman, policemen, first responders and nurses. I challenge you to do it for 30 days. It will change your life.”

During the final day of training, students used ‘teach backs’ to teach each other a specific part of suicide prevention training.

“We need the students to understand the legal background,” said 1st Lt. Dat Vo, Judge Advocate General, 120th Brigade Support Element, First Army, Fort Hood, Texas. “Soldiers need to understand that if they are thinking about suicide, it’s not an end to their career. The most important thing I want Soldiers to know is that it’s confidential and we will get you the help you need.”

Instructors and students work and network together beyond the training class, once they return to their duty stations, to help bring awareness and available support to suicide prevention.

“We want to create an environment that encourages help-seeking. The Army is doing a really good job at shifting the culture but there is still a lot of work to do,” said Amanda Pederson, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. “One leader and one small change at a time can make all the difference.”