Dover AFB Suicide Prevention program wins AMC nomination

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Faith Schaefer
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

When it comes to mental health in the military, there’s more to it than completing the required annual training. Team Dover’s suicide prevention program has put in the work and been nominated for an award as a result.  

Dover Air Force Base is Air Mobility Command’s representative for the Department of Defense’s “Connect to Protect” Suicide Prevention Recognition Award. Dr. Craig Gilbert, 436th Airlift Wing Violence Prevention Integrator and Suicide Prevention program manager, has been a key player behind this achievement.

Gilbert credited the program’s success to training sessions and resources available on base.

“I think we are getting after suicide prevention a lot better than we have in the past,” said Gilbert. “In the past it has been a more passive approach, ‘here’s your training,’ and now we are pushing more aggressively to make sure people aren't just trained, but also alert.”

The training provided at Dover AFB include, We Care…We Connect, AMC’s primary suicide prevention training, as well as suicide alertness for everyone –Tell, Ask, Listen, Keepsafe (SafeTALK) and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). 

“AMCs primary means for annual training is We Care…We Connect,” said Gilbert. “It’s a small discussion tool that is designed to force supervisors to have a direct, face to face conversation about suicide. It covers all the requirements from Congress and there's some skill building, but also connection with Airmen.”

According to Gilbert, there are over 300 We Care…We Connect trained supervisors on Dover for annual training.

SafeTALK is another one of the base’s tools for suicide awareness training. It consists of a half-day training session centered around recognizing those who might be having thoughts of suicide and intervention techniques.

Gilbert compared the training to waiting at a stoplight in a car and seeing a nice car beside you.

 “You see this one particular model and think it is one of the best you’ve seen,” said Gilbert. “Now you’re driving around and you keep seeing that one particular car. That’s what the skills are. It’s not just be aware of the warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide, but to also be alert for signs that someone might be thinking about suicide. Things they do, things they say, things they feel.”

The training helps Airmen notice the signs of potential suicide, engage with the Airman in potential danger and connect them with an intervention resource for further assistance.

“SafeTALK takes suicide awareness and seeks to create alertness of suicide,” said Shane Hagemeir, safeTALK instructor. “Anyone can be aware something could be wrong, but alert Airmen actually notice the signs of when something is wrong. Good training is key for everything we do in the military. It prepares us to react. This training is no different.”

ASIST is a two day, 16 hour training. Like safeTALK, this class prepares participants to look out for the signs of suicide. ASIST training equips people to provide skilled, lifesaving interventions.

“Until we have open and direct conversations about suicide, we will never get after the stigma that is associated with suicide,” said Gilbert. “People have to be more comfortable talking about suicide.”

Looking forward, Gilbert said he plans to implement virtual reality training into suicide awareness and prevention. His goal is to reach 100% suicide prevention training on base as well as spread the awareness of safeTALK and ASIST trainings.

“Suicide prevention is not one person or one program,” said Gilbert. “It is a community effort and we have some awesome community helpers here.”

If you or a fellow wingman need help, do not hesitate to seek help. If you would like to speak with a chaplain, you can be directly connected with one 24/7 by calling command post at (302) 677-4201. The Military and Family Life Consultant is available at (302) 677-6930. The Military Crisis Hotline is also available 24/7 by calling (800) 273-8255 and choosing option 1, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). If it is an emergency, please call 911.