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Health and Fitness

Suicide First-Aid

Are You Willing to ASIST?

On the outside, it looked like any other Navy vessel moored to a pier; haze gray and resting on crystal blue waters. Though a light shower poured out of a bright blue sky, and Sailors didn't seem to mind.

However, inside the ship, a whole other storm was brewing.

Just a few hours earlier, a Sailor and shipmate at my command in Guam died by suicide. At first, that day seemed like any other to all those who knew him. Sailors were focused on their jobs as this Sailor made his way to the armory to arm up for his watch. Everything seemed to be going like clockwork. And just like that, the clock stopped.

Growing up as a kid, suicide was the furthest thing from my mind. If at any time it did cross my mind, I knew for certain I could never go through with it. I knew even during the toughest of times, there were options for me beyond death. As a religious man, my faith has always served as a strong protective factor for me.

At the same time, I didn't want any family member, friend or Sailor around me to feel like suicide was an option, so I chose to assist with suicide prevention at my command.
suicide prevention graphic

suicide prevention graphic

The first step was to attend the applied suicide intervention skills training or ASIST, a two-day LivingWorks education course for anyone 16 or older, regardless of prior experience, who wants to be able to provide suicide first aid.

I had no idea what to expect from the class. As I approached the chapel doors my mind drifted back to my second duty station in San Diego. I was TAD to an auxiliary security force in Point Loma. I met a girl who regularly harmed herself. I was unsure what to do, so I told the command and asked her to pray to stay alive. The command and chaplain were aware and were handling the situation.
suicide prevention graphic

suicide prevention graphic

Last year, while at my current command, I was on my first barrack's watch when a young man asked me for the chaplain's number. I gave it to him and asked if everything was alright. He said yes, so I gave him the number and went back to my duties. Several hours later two different Sailors came up to me and said they thought the young male from earlier was thinking about suicide. I brought him into the room and sat down with him to ask what was wrong. He was going to be transferred to his first station soon and he wasn't handling the news too well.

And just last month, I was overseas for an assignment with two Sailors from my command to interview a chaplain for a story we were covering. We were delayed in interviewing the chaplain who was responding to the loss of a Sailor who had died by suicide the night before.

These scenarios weren't isolated to one duty station or one type of person. They expanded my entire career from east to west coasts and overseas. I know suicide affects many people. I met 27 of those people when I entered into the classroom.
suicide prevention graphic

suicide prevention graphic

The class offered all of the things we have all come to love from these types of trainings; surveys, statistics and videos. However, when we broke up into smaller groups to discuss questions and emotions related to suicide, people began to open up and share their experiences.

We learned that often the most important question you can ask is the one people avoid the most: Are you thinking about killing yourself or have you ever thought about it?
suicide prevention graphic

suicide prevention graphic

The course is just what it sounds like, CPR for suicide. Our focus was on one thing: life support. We are one available avenue that people have before seeking professional help and our job is to keep the person alive.

If you want to find more information on ASIST click here.

If you're a Service member in crisis or know a Service member who is, confidential support is only a phone call, click, or text away - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (Option 1), text 838255 from a mobile device or visit for confidential chat.