Daegu Soldiers open up during suicide prevention training

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Undergoing ASIST training, Soldiers from across USAG Daegu and Area IV show deep interest and concern as two classmates respond to a scenario intended to make them more aware of a person showing signs of suicidal thoughts and plans, and how to engage them.  (Photo By: Mary B. Grimes/USAG Daegu)
Undergoing ASIST training, Soldiers from across USAG Daegu and Area IV show deep interest and concern as two classmates respond to a scenario intended to make them more aware of a person showing signs of suicidal thoughts and plans, and how to engage them. (Photo By: Mary B. Grimes/USAG Daegu)

Daegu Soldiers open up during suicide prevention training

by: Mary B. Grimes | .
USAG Daegu Public Affairs | .
published: February 19, 2014

Suicide is not an easy topic to approach. Even so, it is something that is a very real issue in communities everywhere, and for that reason, the U.S. Army continues to do what it can to raise awareness among Soldiers, Family members, and Department of Defense civilians regarding its risks and potential. As it is an issue that does not take a rest, USAG Daegu, and the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) leadership found wisdom in making awareness training available to Soldiers and civilians throughout Area IV both during and after the recent holiday season.

Known as ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), the two-day workshops were held on Camp Walker and Camp Carroll, respectively -- drawing nearly 60 personnel over a four-day period. According to U.S. Army officials, the course addresses a wide range of suicide-prevention, and intervention skills. Upon successful completion of the course, key individuals will be qualified to conduct the two-day ASIST course throughout the Army. Administering the training to Area IV participants were Chaplain (Maj.) M. Timothy Ryu, 501st Brigade Chaplain, and Staff Sgt. Carlos E. Muniz, 501st Chaplain Section NCOIC.

The workshops were in response to an operational order from the 19th ESC, to provide units across Area IV with ASIST training. "This is a very important training program in the Army, especially in Korea where the majority of the Soldiers, many of whom are on their first assignment, are on unaccompanied tours in a high-OPTEMPO (a measure of the pace of an operation or operations) environment. Cultivating the willingness and capacity to detect, engage, and assist fellow Soldiers who are at risk of suicide is crucial," said Chaplain Ryu.

That willingness to engage was evident among class participants. Divided into small groups, Soldiers--males and females alike, shared their individual stories regarding their experiences with suicide carried out either by a family member, a fellow Soldier, or a friend. Their stories were heart-wrenching, and whether the suicide occurred while the Soldier was downrange, or home on leave, they all seemed collectively burdened with the question of whether they could have done something to prevent it.

Clearly, these thoughts are in line with the U.S. Army's push to keep the matter of suicide prevention on the front burner. Army officials have viewed ASIST training  as a form of first aid that establishes a means of recognizing and better understanding the needs of individuals at risk, and their cry or invitation for help. One individual attending ASIST training at the Camp Walker Chapel said, "Someone once expressed, "If you know people who are suicidal, or if you know people who are bipolar, depressed, have panic attack disorder, just be there for them. They're going through something that's very, very hard."

These words seemed to echo the sentiments of Sgt. April Bryant who also took part in the suicide prevention training. She said, "The training itself is very, very influential, and very important. I think everybody in the Army or the military should get this training because the reality is suicide is something that happens every day in our lives or environments. We should be able to look left or right to our buddy, and say, hey, is this the situation you’re having, and then know how to better handle the situation from there.  Regardless of the rank, an individual should be able to ask somebody for some help---or somebody should be able to offer some help because we’re just human. We should be able to reach out and look out for each other because we’re all we’ve got.”

Like Sgt. Bryant, other participants in the training were forthcoming in their opinions and experiences. On the matter of suicide, some shared how they had been approached by a buddy, or how a family member either took his life, or was unsuccessful with the attempt. With heads often held low, they spoke of how they felt and how they wish they could have simply done more. Expressed one Soldier, "In my line of work, I'm just tired of seeing the impact suicide can have on units and families.  I'm hoping that this ASIST training will empower me in such a way that I can in the future, intervene and somehow make a positive difference."

Other voices raised in support of the ASIST training efforts included Pvt. 1st Class Rhemah Lewis who said, "I thought the training was really good and that it was an eye-opener for a lot of people, so that we can see that even though you might talk to someone on a daily basis—they can be giving you signs about their wanting to commit suicide, but you never really notice it or anything like that. We should just really take the time to get to know people better, and seriously think more about what it is they're saying. Don’t just brush everything off that people say to you."

Participating in the training, a soft spoken Spc. Justin A. Helms said, “A lot of the stuff that we do in the real world, ties in a lot with this training. So, it’s extremely helpful. It’s a great class where someone can come out…especially if they are shy -- open them up a little bit so that they can be able to talk to people.”

A petroleum supply specialist, and seasoned NCO, Sgt. 1st Class Duane Starnes was emphatic in his assertions regarding the seriousness of the ASIST training. He said, " I thought the class was very helpful. It taught us through the use of scenarios, how to engage and to look for the warning signs of people at high risk for suicide. The training teaches anybody how to look for warning signs and suicide indicators.  The truth is we don't always do that. Far too often we  just go about our own ways and business. It was very good training."

When asked how the training can be even more effective, Chaplain Ryu said, "For the training to be even more effective, we must place more emphasis at all levels of command, and regularly schedule training opportunities." Chaplain Ryu added that he thinks the Area IV ASIST training went very well. "The Soldiers were motivated, engaged, and receptive," he said.

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