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Two days could mean a lifetime to a Wingman

By Tech. Sgt. Ave I. Young | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Aug. 6, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

The hardest question any Airman can ask -- “Are you thinking about suicide?” – could be the most important one an Airman ever asks.

Airmen can find the courage to help from Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST, a suicide intervention skills training offered every month at Joint Base San Antonio. ASIST helps participants become more willing, ready and able to intervene with someone at risk of suicide.

“Depression, suicide and stress do not see our uniforms,” said Walt Myhre, ASIST trainer at the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, or AFW2, at the Air Force's Personnel Center Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “ASIST training gives the Air Force a way forward with the process to make discussion about the topic more comfortable. It will improve your confidence as an attendee.”

In an ASIST workshop, Airmen learn to recognize signs, provide a skilled intervention and develop a safety plan to keep a potential suicide alive.

“I gained some great tools to help with intervention and the biggest takeaway for me is following up with members who have major shifts in their lives like divorce, PCS or custody issues,” said Master Sgt. Aisha Thomas, a wing career advisor at the 340th Flying Training Group at JBSA-Randolph.

ASIST trainees can keep their communities safer from suicide by providing life-saving interventions. They become a vital resource that peers and leaders can call to help others.

“Having been in the Air Force for 25 years, this is the most personal and interactive subject related material I have seen,” Myhre said. “It is very personal, very connected and it is impactful.”

Program trainers realize how hard ti can be for someone to ask something so personal.

“My hope is that the ASIST program will help destigmatize the subject of suicide and bring the conversation about behavior health issues out into the open,” Myhre said.

Airmen don’t need special training to show genuine concern for someone in crisis. They do need training in the right skills to do so.

“I think that people shy away from just asking ‘are you thinking about suicide?’, and I have no issue asking now. I thought it was taboo but I see it is not,” Thomas said.

ASIST helps participants become more willing, ready and able to intervene with someone at risk of suicide.

"Any one of us, regardless of AFSC or position, could find ourselves in a situation where our actions could prevent a Wingman, co-worker, family member, friend, or even a stranger from taking their life," said Master Sgt. Dawn Bogardus, 91st Cyberspace Operations Squadron first sergeant. People can sign up for ASIST training by sending an email to AFPC.DPFW.WellnessTeam@us.af.mil

If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal ideation or behavior, contact the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then press 1, or access an online chat by texting 838255.