By Capt. Sean Murphy, commander, Company B, 257th Brigade Support Battalion, Wisconsin Army National Guard
Editors note: As we prepare to conclude Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Capt. Sean Murphy, commander of B Company, 257th Brigade Support Battalion, shared his thoughts after attending an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST) program workshop over the summer at Camp American Legion in Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin.
“We may have a suicide situation.”
These are the words no leader wants to hear, but it happens far too often.
The Wisconsin National Guard, through its Service Member Support Division, has been working hard to make sure units and leaders are prepared through its Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshops.
The workshops have taken place in locations throughout the state, and I had the opportunity to attend one at Camp American Legion in Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin.
Camp American Legion’s mission is to provide rest, relaxation, recuperation and rehabilitation to Wisconsin veterans of all ages, actively serving military service members and their families, making it a perfect place to host the event.
We were lodged in cottages, and American Legion staff and volunteers served the meals. There was even a camp clown for the children who setup activities just for them. Soldiers were not the only attendees, as family members and other state employees also participated.
The instruction centered on meeting the needs of persons at risk through a strategy called “The Pathway for Assisting Life,” or PAL. PAL helps individuals confronted with a potentially suicidal person by providing a framework to use. It consists of connecting with suicide, understanding choices and assisting life.
One phrase continued to come through during the two-day training – “Safe for now.” Make the individual safe for now, and then assist them in seeking professional assistance.
The instructors taught and demonstrated the process before each student had the opportunity to practice for themselves, and the training culminated with one-on-one role playing scenarios where each student demonstrated his or her new skills.
So far Wisconsin has trained more than 400 Soldiers, employees, family members and volunteers, making it a safer place for everyone.