What would you do if someone you knew was contemplating suicide? What would you say to them? Would you even recognize the signs?
The Naval Air Station Lemoore (NASL) Chapel and its newly minted Suicide Prevention Council (SPC) held a half-day SafeTALK (Tell, Ask, Listen, Keep Safe) alertness training on Wednesday morning to teach attendees how to become suicide-alert helpers.
SafeTALK, which is held at the NASL Chapel periodically, is a program developed by Living Works Education. According to their website, SafeTALK aims to train anyone aged 15 and older how to connect suicidal individuals with life-saving intervention resources.
“We’d like individuals to recognize a person who may be at risk for suicide, how to approach them, and how to address their needs,” said NASL Suicide Prevention Council Representative Malia Hanna.
“The ongoing theme is suicide awareness talk and the stories about how one person, one moment has stopped someone from committing suicide,” added Jennifer Nieder, one of the SafeTalk trainers. “We want more of those moments.”
Harvey Torgeson, ASIST trainer for the Suicide Prevention Taskforce of Tulare and Kings County, spoke at the SafeTALK seminar.
"Suicide is a subject that has been avoided for a long time. I believe, with the military, it is very much needed," Torgeson said. "These Living Works products have been tested in communities and we have seen them work."
Torgeson and his wife, Jan, have been involved in the taskforce for 27 years.
The NASL Chapel also runs ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), another Living Works program that focuses on what they call “suicide first-aid.”
“ASIST is more in-depth. It focuses on developing safety plans and gathering support for suicidal individuals,” says Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class James Larson.
Throughout the two-day program, attendees learn how to provide guidance to a person at risk, identify effective safety plans, participate in group discussions and undergo skills practice and development.
ASIST is offered to those aged 16 and older. The next seminar will be held Nov. 8-9 at the NASL Chapel. The cost of the workshop is between $250 and $300, but CREDO (Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation) Southwest is funding the current class schedule.
Interested parties are invited to register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 559-998-4618. The workshop is open to anyone with base access.
“We are passionate about Living Works programs. We are working hard to involve suicide prevention coordinators in each of the commands and get them involved in our council,” Hanna said.
The council’s hope is that command Ombudsmen and those involved in the Navy Child and Youth Program (CYP) will become certified in the near future. Eventually, they would like to have everyone in the NASL community attend a SafeTALK training seminar.
“Talking about suicide is difficult,” Nieder said, “but if you can’t talk about it or hear someone talk about it, you can’t help.”
According to Navy Suicide Prevention (NSP), suicide numbers have been on the rise over the last decade. In 2016, 62 active duty and reserve members committed suicide. The NSP reported on Oct. 5 that there had been 48 so far in 2017.
There have been multiple suicides and suicide related incidents in the NAS Lemoore community over the last few years.
“To address the suicide intervention needs of our youth aboard Naval Air Station Lemoore, we would like to highly encourage all parents of children in grades 7-12 to attend a safeTALK training," Hanna said. "The council has discussed having a parent and child safeTALK training on a Saturday morning, if enough parents are interested."
A study conducted by Blue Star Families in 2015 showed that 7% of active duty and veteran spouses had contemplated suicide.
"We hope to have our community ready, willing and able to address the needs of a person at risk," Hanna said. "We want our message to a person at risk to be that ‘You are never alone, there is always someone who will listen."
The SPC stresses that if you encounter someone actively attempting suicide, call the police. The 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Individuals can also contact the NAS Lemoore Duty Chaplain at 559-469-7264 for religious or spiritual support.