By Mass Communication 2nd Class Jeffry Willadsen
EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) – Sailors on Naval Station Everett (NSE) participated in the safeTALK suicide prevention training program Jan. 29.
The training was meant to teach Sailors how to recognize suicidal behaviors, interact with at-risk people, and ultimately get them the help and support that they need.
According Lt. Cmdr. Carl Stamper, NSE command chaplain and one of the instructors of the safeTALK course, it’s all about learning to save the life of a shipmate.
“We value human life,” said Stamper. “The impact of a suicide on our community is just violent … it’s devastating.”
The course is designed for all Sailors, not just those in positions of leadership, and is meant to be a toolbox of resources to help prevent suicide, a goal that is very important to the Navy as a whole.
“We want the majority of people to be safeTALK trained … if everyone is aware of it, than anyone, at any moment, can help somebody,” said David Malnar, a safeTALK instructor and retired Navy chaplain. “It’s to empower [Sailors], help them and give them the tools that they need to use at that moment to get that person to help.”
The title “safeTALK” not only embodies the need for people with suicidal thoughts to have a safe person to talk to; it is also an acronym. “SAFE” stands for “Suicide Awareness For Everyone,” which is a goal the course hopes to achieve. “TALK” stands for “Tell, Ask, Listen, Keep Safe,” the four steps to helping sufferers of suicidal thoughts to get the help they need.
“The developers of this [course] were very thoughtful in the way that they developed it,” said Stamper. “It’s something that we can do; it’s not just information, it’s not just awareness.”
Signs and signals that indicate suicidal behavior are discussed in depth during the course. The TALK steps are the main focus of the course, and are explained in great detail. Recognizing signs of a person having suicidal thoughts is vital to beginning this process of suicide prevention, and is the first focus of the safeTALK course.
“This [class] makes us much more sensitive to the language, to the actions of people that are at risk of suicide,” said Stamper.
Next, Sailors are taught how to compassionately interact with a potentially suicidal person. This includes asking if a person is thinking about suicide, and listening to their response.
Finally, Sailors are given the tools to get a suicidal person to a suicide prevention caregiver, including a chaplain, doctor, or other qualified individual.
“If we can get them to help, the statistics show that they don’t want to commit suicide,” said Malnar. “I think it’s important, because the life of anybody is immeasurable. You can’t put a value on the loss of someone.”
The course is composed of slideshows and video scenarios, but also includes highly interactive elements. Sailors were encouraged to interact with the instructors, answer questions about the material, and ask questions of their own. A segment near the end of the course encouraged Sailors to role play, acting as a potentially suicidal person or suicide caregiver in a particular scenario.
According to Stamper, the interactive and scenario-driven nature of the safeTALK course is great practice for real life.
“In this class you know what to do, and you actually practiced it,” said stamper. “We really believe that people will leave here prepared to identify and intervene with people at risk of suicide. No doubt.”
To learn more about the Navy’s suicide awareness efforts, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/suicide_prevention or http://navynavstress.com/.