Story and photo by Pfc. Nathan Thome
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
Soldiers from units at Fort Carson and Fort Sill, Okla., attended a six-hour Ask, Care, Escort – Suicide Intervention train-the-trainer course, at the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, headquarters, Jan. 14-16.
The three, one-day courses led by a team of ACE-SI Mobile Training Team facilitators, taught commissioned and noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers about the warning signs, risk factors and protective measures of suicide, and how to intervene in high-risk situations.
“It’s currently a once-in-your-career requirement to go through the ACE-SI four-hour course,” said Shannon Avakian, facilitator, ACE-SI MTT. “What we’re doing is the six-hour train-the-trainer course to teach first-line leaders, so they can go back to their units and train other leaders how to identify risk factors, warning signs and know how to deal with that and get their Soldiers and other people help.”
In 2013, suicide in the Army decreased 22 percent from the previous year. The decrease is attributed to training programs and the emphasis the Army has placed on suicide prevention.
“Suicide has been a problem in the Army for many years. In the past 10 years or so, the Army has passed civilians in percent of suicides,” said Avakian. “The Army is taking this seriously, doing a lot of training, the ACE-SI and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, and it is having an impact; numbers have dipped down slightly since last year.”
Through the implementation of suicide prevention programs and training, Army leadership is trying to reduce the stigma of getting help.
“This course isn’t to make the leaders experts with suicide prevention, but more to build their confidence and give them the skills to recognize changes in behavior and feel comfortable to take action and intervene,” said Avakian.
Between each block of instruction, the Soldiers acted out scenarios in their groups. The role-playing was meant to give the Soldiers a variety of ideas on how to handle a suicidal situation.
“This course has taught me the difference between warning signs and risk factors, because (risk factors are) possibly of no consequence, but the warning signs are definitely very important to keep an eye on,” said Chap. (Capt.) James Roland, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery Regiment, 214th Fires Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla. “This is something Soldiers can do, and it’s something they should all be trained to do.”
Roland said that this training will let him provide better help to Soldiers in need.
“Oftentimes Soldiers are not comfortable handling these situations alone, they may not be comfortable escorting someone to behavioral health or to the hospital, so they’ll bring them to me,” said Roland. “Knowing what to look for, knowing how to ask questions, learning how to dialogue in these situations is something that is vital for my role as a chaplain, and someone who wants to support Soldiers.”
After completing the course, the Soldiers return to their respective units to pass on the intervention skills and knowledge they learned during the class.
“Our unit is supposed to have 100-percent of the battalion trained ea