How to Suicide Prevention Training


The below comment was received on my Facebook page, it was worth bumping to here.

Peter DiMarzio said: I am a veteran of the US Air Force now working as the EAP Coordinator for District 1 for the last two years. Prior to this position I worked for the last twelve years with the Massachusetts Dept. of Mental Health. I am concerned about GMT topics being placed online in particular Suicide Prevention. I can say after almost every presentation I have has shipmates come up to me with concerns about their shipmates, parents or friends who have express suicidal tendencies, or have concerns these people are heading down that road. These people are looking for guidance on how to help. Its my greatest concern that without this face to face these individuals will sit in front of a computer and never come forward with these concerns. The online training becomes another circle to fill in. I have been to many commands, units and the Academy and all feel this particular topic should remain face to face. Please keep this a face to face training to ensure concerns can be addressed. Thank you.

Mr. DiMarzio,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments regarding the Suicide Prevention GMT. The fact that participants in your Suicide Prevention training feel comfortable approaching you about such sensitive issues tells me you are providing excellent services for our members and employees. Also encouraging is the fact that members at your training sessions are outwardly showing concern about the well-being of shipmates, parents and friends, and are looking for ways to help. This is exactly the Guardian climate we are trying to reinforce within the Coast Guard.

You present a good case for keeping the Suicide Prevention GMT as a face-to-face requirement. My Work-Life staff agrees with you, and so do I. We continue to work towards that end; however, we are currently reaching only about 60% of Coast Guard personnel with face-to-face Suicide Prevention training annually. We realize that face to face is the best delivery method, but training in an alternate format, rather than no training due to limited resource capacity is the current reality. To ensure that we are able to provide everyone with valuable Suicide Prevention training, we must also rely on an online option to serve remote units and those personnel who were otherwise unable to attend the face-to-face training. For all its short-comings, on-line training does have several positive attributes 1. we can be assured that all the important learning objectives are consistently presented 2. we have verification that students actually understood what was taught, 3. the message conveyed is consistent and delivered in an approved / scripted manner.

The revised Suicide Prevention policy that is currently being developed will “strongly encourage” face-to-face training but will allow Commanding Officers/Officers-in-Charge to seek a waiver to use online training in lieu of face to face sessions. With this provision the unit’s chain of command will be able to monitor and ensure the best mix of services.

The use of on-line suicide prevention training is consistent with the policy currently proposed by DoD, and reflects the reality that we are currently unable to reach everyone with “on-site” training. We continue to strive to reach our goal to provide face-to-face Suicide Prevention Training to all Coast Guard personnel in the future.

Thank you again for taking the time to comment on this issue. And, most sincerely, thank you for your passion and enthusiasm in addressing the needs of all of the members of our extended Coast Guard Family. You embody the true meaning of Guardian. Semper Paratus.

Note: Emergency suicide crisis services may be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the Employee Assistance Program toll free number (800) 222-0364.


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