By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joan E. Jennings, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Whidbey Island ::
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) conducted “safeTALK” training to increase suicide awareness among Sailors and to help reduce suicide rates, April 2.
SafeTALK prepares anyone over the age of 15 to identify a person with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first aid resources, said Lt. Cmdr. Jon Rozema, a chaplain assigned to NASWI. The safeTALK helpers learn steps that contribute to saving lives.
“SafeTALK is important because it does more than just make a person aware of suicide ideation,” Rozema said. “It actively provides an opportunity for a person to challenge their own preconceptions and attitudes regarding suicide and overcome them so that they are more willing, able, and ready to help.”
Rozema said safeTALK trained suicide alert helpers are better able to move beyond common tendencies to miss, dismiss or avoid suicide. Alert helpers are trained to identify people who have thoughts of suicide; apply the TALK (Tell, Ask, Listen and Keep Safe) steps to connect a person with suicidal thoughts to suicide first aid, intervention caregivers, and are more able and ready to intervene should the need arise for them to do so.
“I’ve been teaching suicide prevention for 11 years and this program is far better than anything I’ve ever seen the Navy produce,” said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class William Murdy, assigned to NASWI.
Lt. j.g. Grant Lemaster, Patrol Squadron (VP) 1, said as leaders in the command they are responsible for their Sailors, and the need to be able to identify when people are struggling is invaluable.
“This class gives us valuable tools to provide a safe environment for our Sailors,” Lemaster said. “VP-1 is getting ready for deployment and we are about to start going through tough times both emotionally and physically, and this class will aid us in helping our Sailors deal with the stresses coming up.”
The safeTALK program was created by the Canadian based organization called Living works, starting as volunteer work with the Canadian Mental Health Association.