Hurlburt Field sits in an idyllic spot along Florida’s Emerald Coast. Air Force Special Operations Command has 10,000 personnel at the installation including active duty and civilians. Given the nature of special operations and scaled-up activity since 9/11, the installation was seeing a higher than average number of suicides with approximately five to nine suicides a year, including civilian employees.
The leadership knew it had a serious problem to address so the base collaborated with LivingWorks to deploy training in suicide prevention. The base trainers then combined one of LivingWorks' training programs, LivingWorks safeTALK, with their in-processing at Hurlburt and included spouses. LivingWorks safeTALK teaches trainees to recognize when someone is thinking about suicide and connect that person to support.
The support team was trained in LivingWorks ASIST, another LivingWorks program that teaches people to provide suicide interventions and keep others safe. The result was one-two combination: large numbers of people could use LivingWorks safeTALK to identify someone who was struggling, and connect them to highly trained personnel with LivingWorks ASIST skills for help.
The remarkably effective and innovative in-processing combination known as Commando Ready equips all new airmen with the half-day LivingWorks safeTALK training, and the drop in suicides on the base has been impressive. The Air Force has a calculation based on their suicide prevention program that allows for predictability based on five-year data sets.
“Based on five years of data and the number that we had, rates per thousand and so forth, it came to 260-something days. We went almost 650 before we actually hit a point where we had another suicide,” said Dexter Mitchell, a retired service member who now acts as a community support coordinator at the installation. He is trained in both LivingWorks safeTALK and LivingWorks ASIST.
Based on the buzz this reduction in suicides is creating, Hurlburt is getting calls from bases around the country—from Missouri to California and states in between—who want to duplicate. The simplicity and accessibility of widespread safeTALK training with a smaller group on base ASIST-trained creates a community-wide safety network among the airmen and their families.
ABOUT LIVINGWORKS: Founded in 1983, LivingWorks is dedicated to saving lives from suicide through effective, evidence-based community training solutions. Over 2,000,000 people, including 370,000 DoD personnel, have attended LivingWorks programs.