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Connect to Protect: Support is within reach

  • Published
  • By Technical Sergeant Isaac D. Garden
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

During the month of September, the Department of Defense recognizes Suicide Prevention Month to educate the military community about resources available year-round and emphasize the importance of connections between friends, family and wingmen.

Members across Team Shaw voluntarily attend the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, a training opportunity for members to develop the courage and skill to intervene and assist someone at risk of suicide.

“We want people that want to be there, because those are the people that will get the most out of this,” said ASIST Instructor Tech. Sgt. Ryan McHaney, 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron flight service center noncommissioned officer in charge. “We can’t make someone empathetic, but if they are, we can capitalize on that. This course is one of those tools that can help us do that.”

Airmen were provided tools and skills that will allow them to change the conversation surrounding mental health and turn awareness into action.

“The ASIST class is more focused on what they call suicide first aid,” said McHaney. “A lot of the suicide training is steered toward prevention, but this is more of an intervention. It teaches you how to deal with someone in the moment of them having suicidal thoughts and how to guide them to staying safe for now.”

Shaw members are volunteering their time to learn how to recognize signs, provide a skilled intervention and develop a plan in order to see to the safety of their wingmen, friends, family and anyone at risk.

“I gained a better understanding of how to better assist and support people who are having suicidal ideations,” said Torre Shepker, 20th Force Support Squadron supervisory school age coordinator. “The class gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to either adapt your biases from prior to the course, or adapt your ways of intervening and hone in on your skills, personally and professionally, on how to best assist people that are having issues.”

Sharpening interpersonal skills and staying vigilant to changes in behavior can be the difference between a life saved and a life lost. Having someone who’s willing to walk the line and stand in the gap is a testament to true wingmanship.

“I wanted to become an instructor because what we do is hard and we have a lot of stressors every day,” said McHaney. “I have very close friends that I’ve served with that have had bouts with depression or potential thoughts of suicide. Just seeing how prevalent it is and the fact that it’s steady and obviously not going anywhere is an issue. I think it’s natural to want to get involved and help.”

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