Training the trainers on suicide prevention


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or ASIST, developed in 1983, is known as suicide first aid. The ASIST model teaches effective intervention skills for someone who may be contemplating suicide. 

The Army Reserve’s 85th Support Command hosted an ASIST Training for Trainers five-day workshop, at the command headquarters, with the Living Works training team, October 16-20, 2017.

ASIST is a two-day workshop that teaches participants to carry out life-saving interventions for people at risk of suicide. The ASIST T4T course trains ASIST trainers on ASIST for the first two days, and then focuses on how to teach ASIST training the remaining three days. One training coach from Living Works is present for every five to six training participants.

“The five day (ASIST T4T) course is the first step toward becoming a registered ASIST trainer and providing your own workshops,” said Carmella Navarro, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, 85th Support Command. “Attendees learn the content and process of ASIST and the skills needed to conduct it. 

Navarro further explained that the course provides ongoing support from Living Works and prepares trainers to provide their units with “Life assisting knowledge”.

“We need to raise the consciousness of the military members to the number of suicides that are happening within the military community, and at the same time equip them with the necessary training to conduct emergency suicide intervention,” said Navarro.

An estimated 70 percent of participants were from units assigned to the 85th SPT CMD, with a remainder of participants from Army Reserve and active component units to include First Army’s 157th Infantry Brigade, 4th Cavalry Brigade, and 188th Infantry Brigade. A few additional units included 88th Readiness Division, 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and the 76th Operational Response Command. Overall, participants from seven states and one foreign country were in attendance for the training event.

Trainers from the ASIST T4T shared that an additional benefit to ASIST training is that it is not just for suicide intervention. It can also be applied as the same intervention model to address various struggles in one’s life.

Annemieke Kumiega, who has been an ASIST trainer since 2006 and an ASIST T4T training coach since 2011, said that this training is applicable to almost any relationship of situation.

“It prepares (trainers) to conduct suicide intervention anytime, anywhere and with anyone,” said Kumiega. “It gives (trainers) tools to help keep a person-at-risk safe for now while they (are connected to) resources and support.”

Not all participants in the training were new to the reality of suicide. One participant shared that they have had suicides within their ranks, and that this training took the taboo topic of suicide and pulled it out of its complexity; it provided assistance to simplify the process to help those in need. 

“Many units have Soldiers who have been through tough personal and family crises,” said Dr. Cesar Pajarillo, Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator, 85th Support Command. “The present of ASIST-trained personnel will help the unit significantly in providing quick interventions whenever there are suicidal Soldiers.”

Navarro added that this training supports the Ready Force as the most equipped, combat-ready Federal-Reserve force, and that these skills are a valuable resource in any unit and community.

“The stories I have heard in these trainings confirm the camaraderie these Soldiers share in wanting to do more to help their battle buddies,” said Navarro. 

According to Navarro, the trainer’s duty is not to “fix” the Soldier in his or her mental anguish, but to listen with empathy. 

“Empathy fuels connection. Connection allows the Soldier to tell their story, and telling their story allows the Soldier to want assistance in staying alive,” said Navarro. “All you have to do is get that Soldier “Safe for now”. I have the blessing to be able to take these well-educated compassionate leaders to the field with me, and use their expertise to empower other Soldiers to pay this forward.”

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