by Senior Airman Sean D. Smith
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
3/30/2015 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Air Force suicide prevention training is reverting from an electronic system to a face to face format.
"The annual suicide prevention training was a computer-based training
that effectively standardized the information and made it readily
available. However, the CBT format fell short of dealing with the issues
of distress and suicide on a personal level," said 1st Lt. Paul Cotton,
Suicide Prevention Program manager. "The Air Force Community Action
Information Board addressed the limitations of the CBT by returning to a
format consisting of vignette-based video and small group discussion
focused on suicide prevention concepts."
The new approach is intended to benefit Airmen and their families by
presenting the subject matter in a way that's relevant to everyone.
"I think it is a very good thing that we are going back to in-person
training," said Col. Jane Holtzclaw, 5th Medical Group deputy commander.
"It is all too easy to just click buttons on a CBT. And besides, this
is a very sensitive topic, and there is no way that a CBT can do it
A more personal approach to suicide prevention allows for discussion that can lead to new ideas, and a new level of awareness.
"The small group discussion is not intended to solely be an awareness
raising activity or a lecture," Cotton said. "Rather, it is an
opportunity for Airmen to both participate in the process of normalizing
distress and reinforcing the wingman culture."
The training will attempt to counter common misconceptions about suicide
as a topic, and ultimately to make Airmen feel more comfortable seeking
help at early stages of distress.
"The stigma with mental health often prevents Airmen from seeking help,
because they are usually concerned about the negative impact that
seeking help will have on their career," Cotton said. "But we usually
see the opposite effect because their performance improves; through
therapy they begin to deal with the problems that are impacting their
lives and work. In fact, research has indicated that 97 percent of
Airmen who seek treatment at Air Force Mental Health Clinics suffer no
negative career impact."
Reducing stigma and making training more personal is only the beginning;
suicide prevention is really about changing the culture.
"Caring about your wingmen is the most critical element to suicide
prevention. Caring means getting to know the people around you to
develop a deeper sense of familiarity," Cotton said. "When a member
knows another member well, it will be easily recognized when he or she
is in distress. This level of familiarity reduces the discomfort of
getting involved when people see their wingmen in trouble."