Naples, Italy - A group of lawyers, paralegals and one Navy dependent attended a course called SafeTALK. They're now qualified as SafeTALK caregivers.
"SafeTALK is a half day workshop that addresses a community health problem: suicide," said Dr. Gary W. Carr, Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO) Facilitator. "The skills taught in the workshop are learned easily and are effective for making persons at risk safer.
According to Carr a large numbers of people can be taught steps to helping a person with thoughts of suicide.
"Since it is probable that virtually everyone will think about suicide at some time in their life," said Carr. "It is also probable that we should train everyone in clear and effective ways to help."
To become caregivers these students first had to attend the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course. The students attending felt they received more than just another training session.
"This class went beyond our standard General Military Training (GMT) and really helped further my understanding of where people who are in a position of contemplating suicide are coming from," said LCDR Bryan C. Barletto, Defense Service Office North (DSO-N). "And how all of us can, and should be, first-responders to a variety of critical situations."
SafeTALK assumes that people with suicidal thoughts are ambivalent (of two minds) about suicide. While part of them wants to escape life, the other wants to live, or at least avoid dying.
Referring to www.suicide.navy.mil, "this year in the U.S. Navy, we have lost 51 shipmates to suicide," he said. "In 2014, we lost 68 sailors. Too many valuable members ... are no longer with us. We can and will do something about it by making our Navy community a 'suicide-safer' community."
According to Carr, the Navy has adopted this program from Living Works Education Inc. which provides training internationally and other programs that are offered including ASIST, SuicideTALK, and Suicide to HOPE. The organizer for this class offered to the DSO-N was Defense Paralegal Legalman 1st class (SCW) Emily T. Robinson.
"I recommended the SafeTALK due to the diverse interactions we, specifically as a Defense Service Office have with Sailors every day," she said. "Sailors walk through our doors with issues ranging from minor to life altering problems such as jail time and being dishonorable discharge from the Navy."
Robinson said that with these problems come various degrees of emotions due to what they are potentially facing. She also said that in the course of a conversation the Sailor provides a "tell" of suicidal thoughts.
"I wanted us to be able to recognize them [tells]," said Robinson. "My wish was for our office (DSO-N) to become more comfortable in recognizing those invitations, and to become more confident in directly confronting the issue with the client there on the spot."
Thankfully, Robinson's dealings with her fellow Sailors thinking about suicide have been minimal in her career; although, she says there have been a few times where she had to respond to reports of Sailors contemplating suicide.
"In those few moments, the conversation with them about what they were feeling and thinking was for a lack of a better term awkward," she said. "I was not comfortable at the time if I was doing everything I needed to do for them to ensure they received help. However, after receiving SafeTALK training for the first time in 2013, then ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) in 2014, I personally feel more comfortable with addressing a conversation pertaining to suicide. I wanted my co-workers to have that same confidence."
"Excellent class," Barletto added. "The facilitators, sparked some excellent discussion and dialogue among the participants."
For the DSO-N the SafeTalk course has given the shop another skill to help Sailors in their times of need. Those who attended SafeTALK are trained to be life-assisting caregivers.
"The training they received gives them the necessary tools to identify a person at risk and make a safe connection to a trained resource in the community who can provide a suicide intervention," said Carr. "They are not "trainers" for others."
According to Carr, a SafeTALK "Train the Trainers" course is available once a year for those who are interested in becoming trainers. Those who provide suicide intervention receive additional training in a two-day course called ASIST. Car has already trained more than 24 ASIST caregivers in the community.
"The skills and knowledge acquired in this class will help me be more attuned to my clients, and more capable in responding to those in danger," said Barletto.
They can add 10 more trained caregivers to their list. For more information on suicide intervention training contact your installation's chaplain's office or the Fleet and Family Support Center.