The Army has two suicide prevention programs. First is Ask, Care, Escort, better known as ACE.
When you see someone who you believe is showing signs of stress, ask if he or she is OK. Ask if there is something that you can do to help. Ask if he or she needs to talk. If you have seen your buddy exhibit the warning signs and you have the feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is not right, so ask.
If he or she accepts your invitation to share his or her pain, you need to care enough to listen. The simple act of allowing someone an opportunity to articulate the source of emotional pain lessens stress and can buy another day of life. As you listen, if you continue to hear the warning signs of suicide or he or she talks about risky behavior, or you have a nagging voice telling you what you are hearing does not sound good, tell somebody, tell everybody. Get help watching the individual.
If you believe that individual is thinking about suicide, escort him or her to someone who can help – a supervisor, a Family member, a chaplain or a health care provider.
The second prevention program is Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or ASIST.
The Army has such confidence in this training that it is mandatory training for most civilian and military supervisors, health care professionals, law enforcement officials, lawyers, chaplains and counselors.
ASIST is a two-day training program that instructs individuals on how to identify what are classified as “invitations,” the subtle hints or clues that alert us to thoughts of suicide.
Once we discover the invitation, the program provides us with a communication model that empowers us to hear the individual’s story and find ways to support him or her to safety.
ASIST does not fix the stress triggers that have brought the person at risk to the point of thinking about suicide.
But it provides us the skills to apply “suicide first aid” by getting the individual to a safe mindset and then linking that individual to other caregivers who can address the deeper problems.
Together, ACE and ASIST make an effective suicide prevention program.
But programs do not save lives, people save lives. One person can make a difference.