Soldier suicides have risen since 2004, but new programs and policies across the Army have helped drop the rate 9 percent for 2011. For Kelley Hill, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team unit ministry team is teaching leaders and Soldiers the latest in suicide -prevention techniques.
Called ASIST, or Army Suicide Intervention Skills Training, the program is meant to train personnel to identify the early warning signs of potentially suicidal Soldiers.
Feb. 14 marked the second and final day of classes for the most recent of Kelley Hill’s ASIST-qualified troops.
“It teaches, on a very basic level, that everyone has the power to intervene,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Matt Shirkey, the chaplain for 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd HBCT. “It enables us all to act.”
The two-day class opened with a look at the background and history of suicides, along with a breakdown of the suicide intervention model.
“When you root it in a personal aspect, it really takes hold,” Shirkey said.
Day Two of the training was all about learning the suicide-intervention model and role-playing as both the intervener and potential suicide risk.
“Because of our vocation, it’s important to be able to trust the person to the left or right,” Shirkey said. “I want to trust my battle buddies to intervene when they see something wrong.”
The 3rd Brigade currently leads the 3rd Infantry Division with 255 ASIST-trained Soldiers and leaders, and for the unit ministry team, every person trained is another step closer toward lowering the suicide rate across the Army.
“The more we saturate our formation with trained personnel, the more freedom we will have to discuss suicide,” Shirkey said. “It’s all about an environment where it’s OK to talk about suicide.”