Written by Cmdr. Darren Stennett, chaplain of Coast Guard District Eight
To support the Commandant’s Suicide Awareness Month campaign to “Just Reach Out”, Coast Guard chaplains have coordinated their efforts to create a suicide-safer community by teaching Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and SafeTALK. These programs help reduce the risk of suicide and empower attendees to become more confident, comfortable and competent in preventing the immediate risk of suicide.
ASIST teaches attendees critical suicide intervention skills. These skills help members to “Just Reach Out” to a shipmate who poses the risk of suicide. Once complete, the ASIST workshop empowers members to be ready, willing and able to contribute to a suicide-safer Coast Guard. SafeTALK is a suicide alertness training that teaches participants how to recognize someone at risk and how to ask directly about thoughts of suicide. Through the power of listening, SafeTALK teaches attendees to connect the at-risk member to life-saving help.
The dramatic impact of these programs was recently demonstrated at an ASIST workshop. A petty officer attending the course received an alarming text from a shipmate. With newly learned suicide intervention skills, the petty officer texted back the direct question, “Are you thinking about suicide?” To the petty officer’s shock, the friend replied YES. With this knowledge, the chaplain contacted the member’s chain of command and coordinated help. Literally, within fifteen minutes of completing ASIST, a shipmate reached out to rescue a shipmate.
District Eight chaplains and WorkLife EAPs, launched a suicide prevention initiative to teach ASIST at every sector yearly, and to teach safeTALK at every unit, every two years. Over the last two years, the D8 Suicide Prevention Team has taught 144 classes with more than 1000 attendees. In recognition of their efforts, Rear Adm. Callahan, D8 Commander, recently awarded the Coast Guard Team Award to the team.
To continue the success of these programs and to reduce the rate of suicide in the Coast Guard, your chaplains join the Commandant in recognizing September as Suicide Awareness Month and ask every Coast Guardsmen to “Just Reach Out” to your shipmates in need. We also invite all to participate in an upcoming ASIST or SafeTALK workshop.
Talk to your local chaplain about opportunities to attend these programs.