Tanker unit enhances suicide intervention skills


Photo: Staff Sgt. Torres Jackson instructs unit members and civilians during a training session, March 9. The training is a two-day interactive workshop that teaches suicide first-aid initiatives. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Tinashe Machona.)

GOLDWATER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. -- “Are you thinking of committing suicide?” Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training hosted here, March 8 to 9, teaches unit members and civilians how to recognize suicidal tendencies in order to intervene and render aid. The base director of psychological health programs coordinates this workshop for the 161st Air Refueling Wing each year.

Since its development in 1983, ASIST has received regular updates to reflect improvements in knowledge and practice, and over 1 million people have taken the workshop. 

“ASIST is an invaluable tool that individuals can use to empower others to have the ability to recognize suicidal tendencies, thereby informing and encouraging them to pursue other options,” said James Eddie, the wing’s director of psychological health programs. He added that the program enables people to employ intervention skills before it is too late. 
The workshop produces caregivers who want to feel more comfortable, confident and competent in helping to prevent the immediate risk of suicide.

“This is a life skill that everyone needs but hopefully no one has to use in the future,” said Eddie. He noted that everyone who has participated in the workshop has given positive feedback; that there was significant life-changing value in the course.

Eddie said the ASIST program is akin to the Air Force’s Ask Care Escort initiative. ASIST is not a military-driven strategy, but rather an all-inclusive empowerment device used globally.

“ASIST is a first aid driven mechanism that focuses on intervention skills necessary to prevent an individual from taking their life,” said Staff Sgt. Torre Jackson, the wing’s ASIST coordinator. She said ASIST is supplemented by a pathway to assisting life model, which uses a safety framework, integrating literature on risk and safety measures.

“My passion is helping people the best way that I can in order to for them to overcome their personal challenges,” said Jackson, who is also the force support squadron customer service noncommissioned offer-in-charge. Jackson’s goal is to recruit and train four ASIST course instructors within the wing this year.

Although the program is in its infancy at the wing, Eddie and Jackson anticipate more involvement in the future.

Former Marine and clinical coordinator at La Frontera Suicide Prevention Center, Rebecca Sinclair, attended the workshop. “The issue of suicide is a big deal in our community and I have seen firsthand the impact it has on our veterans,” said Sinclair. She added that the ASIST workshop equipped her with simplified steps that can easily be implemented to help save a life. 

“I am hoping that we can get ASIST into the hands of doctors, nurses, school teachers, bus drivers and pretty much anybody who interacts with people on a daily basis,” said Sinclair. 

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