The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk launched the first iteration of safeTALK suicide prevention training during newcomer orientation July 25 at the Education Center.
In an effort to implement the senior mission commander’s “People First” priority, all assigned personnel will participate in the four-hour face-to-face training by March 31, 2023.
Christa Zayas, suicide prevention program manager at JRTC and Fort Polk, said the commanding general’s initiative was to have 100 percent of the facility trained to help soldiers better understand the warning signs and help others consider suicide.
“Every Monday we will introduce safeTalk to soldiers undergoing treatment,” she said. “We also have over 50 safeTalk trainers trained at unit level. These trainers will launch the safeTalk initiative within their organizational footprint to achieve the goal of the CG. »
According to LivingWorks.net, the workshop teaches participants how to prevent suicide by recognizing the signs, engaging someone, and connecting them to an intervention resource for additional support.
Zayas said the goal is to prevent suicide by raising the level of awareness within the community.
“People will be able to recognize the signs and figure out what to do when someone they know is having suicidal thoughts,” she said. “This training will allow them to ask difficult questions. SafeTALK allows participants to better understand what to do and how to react when faced with someone who might be thinking about suicide.
Zayas said the training was also open to family members.
“During Suicide Prevention Month, we will be offering three facility-wide training opportunities,” she said. “The training is taking place in the classroom of the Human Resources Department on September 9, 16 and 22.”
Zayas said safeTalk training is also available with parental permission for teens 14 and older, upon request.
Major Jeremiah Snyder, Family Life Chaplain, Garrison Religious Support Office, was one of four locally trained safeTalk instructors.
“Chaplains are part of the trainers, but we have trained personnel from various specialties and military professional ranks who will train new personnel and their units,” he said.
Snyder said there have been a variety of different suicide prevention trainings offered to Army personnel over the years.
“This training goes further than other products. Feedback so far indicates soldiers feel more empowered to act, react and intervene,” he said. “To be aware, to act by engaging in conversations, to understand the invitations that suicidal individuals send out. Often it takes outsiders noticing a suicidal person, recognizing the signs, and then connecting with them. I call that being politely intrusive. Be direct and simply ask if they are considering suicide.
Snyder said those receiving the training won’t be required to do a lot of the interventions themselves, but rather know the appropriate resources with which to connect the person in crisis.
“I think everyone needs this training and I’m very excited about the commanding general concept,” he said. “I find there is a greater impact on the training of junior soldiers because often a comrade will turn to his peers when he has suicidal thoughts. They’re not going to go up the chain of command, they’re going to go to the person immediately to their right or to their left.
Lt. Col. Alexander Ragan, facility manager of psychological health for the JRTC and chief of behavioral health at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, said the Army has seen a decrease in suicides this year, but compared to five-year data, active duty suicide rates are trending up.
“I don’t know the exact reasons for the decrease, but I can assume that we are doing better at capturing suicidal ideation earlier,” he said. “There are three steps in a response plan: Ask for help. Offer help. Accept help. Accepting help is the hardest part. Providing safeTalk training to everyone will give more soldiers the tools to know what questions to ask and what resources to offer those considering suicide.
Ragan told BJACH that the command goes one step further.
“In addition to training everyone, our commander has created an internal resilience task force,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how we as leaders take care of our team to better care for our patients.”
Ragan told BJACH that the command wants people to be happy and find satisfaction in coming to work every day.
“When it comes to safeTalk training and suicide prevention, there’s so much we can do to help build resilience in our community,” he said. “From a behavioral health perspective, there is a continuum of help: self-help, friend help, non-medical professional help, primary care, specialist services. »
Ragan said safeTalk is designed to give peers tools to recognize when someone they care about is hurting and help them in meaningful ways.
“As a people-focused initiative, safeTalk training is designed to give individuals increased confidence when someone comes to them with pain or hurt,” he said. “This training will help each of us know what to do and where to take a suicidal person for additional support.”
Editor’s Note: To schedule safeTALK training for your organization, contact the Fort Polk Suicide Prevention Program Manager at 337-531-6787 or email@example.com