Time to 'ASIST' wingmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Ward
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

Being in the Air Force for over two decades, Senior Master Sgt. David Martinez has a broad range of experiences.

Being a first sergeant, he knows all too well the problems Airmen face in their personal and professional lives. This is why he wanted to bring the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST, program to military installations.

“In my 22 years, I haven’t seen or been a part of a program like this,” said Martinez. “We had 7 suicides in a short period and I was asked to become a trainer to help change the culture.”

Martinez adopted this program from when he was an ASIST trainer at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, knowing he needed to bring this program to the Academy to potentially help save many lives.

The purpose of ASIST training

ASIST is a two-day workshop designed to help caregivers feel comfortable helping a person at risk stay safe and seek further help as needed.

Participants take part in a unique training program that teaches them how to spot someone who might be thinking about suicide. They learn to work together to fully understand why someone might feel torn between wanting to live and not.

They also figure out how to plan to keep that person safe, considering anything that might increase their risk. Finally, they commit to checking in afterward and getting involved in groups that help build a community that's stronger in the face of suicide.

Attendees participate in mock scenarios of individuals who may be contemplating suicide, helping them feel comfortable asking the right questions.

“I want our members to understand that our mental health needs to be treated like having a broken bone," said Martinez. "Both need therapy to get stronger, and both should be okay to talk about."

Attendees leave the training with increased confidence

Master Sgt. Mindy Bolton, an ASIST attendee, believes that the course knowledge is an invaluable tool in her repertoire.

"I can't think of a more valuable skill than learning how to intervene and save a life," said Bolton. "Just learning that a friend, coworker, or loved one is thinking of suiciding is scary but to be able to keep a cool head in those difficult situations and help them come up with a SafePlan to get them the help they need is priceless."

Time to get trained

The next class will be May 14-15. All Airmen and civilians assigned to the Academy are encouraged to attend this free-of-charge training. To reserve a seat, contact david.martinez@afacademy.af.edu or 719-333-3253.

Future opportunities in the coming months will be available.