San Antonio, Texas - Suicide awareness training for Navy Medicine Education and Training Command (NMETC) civilian employees was conducted Wednesday at NMETC headquarters on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The training came four weeks ahead of September and Suicide Awareness Month when NMETC and Navy Medicine join the nation in focusing on recognizing the warning signs of suicide.
Lt. Cmdr. Scott Adams, a Navy chaplain assigned to Navy Medicine Training Support Center (NMTSC), led the training and emphasized all members of the Navy community must work together and learn to recognize when it's necessary to seek help or intervene with others. He said civilian employees can play an important role in sensing personal problems of staff and can be a first line of defense.
"If you sense a problem, be direct," Adams said. "Avoid using phrases like 'harming yourself.' You must be honest, and you must be invasive."
He also told civilian employees they could find themselves in a better position to pick up on the signs of a problem. He said they are typically well established at a command and might better identify subtle changes than military counterparts who have been at the command for a short period. Adams added some view rank as a threat, and might act and speak more open with civilian staff than with other military personnel.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Juan Garcia, NMETC assistant suicide awareness coordinator, attended the training and said this viewpoint applies to some military staff.
"I think some military members feel able to speak freely with civilian co-workers," Garcia said. "They might not feel as nervous as they would talking to a higher-ranking military member. That relationship allows for out-of-character speech or actions to be noticed and questioned by the civilian employees."
Adams told the group to never leave any troubled staff alone, and even encouraged them to feel free to escort them to his office if there's any indication they are considering suicide.
"I thought the interactions were good," said Garcia. "Suicide is a difficult topic, and having a person in front of you talking about it openly can be uncomfortable. However, once the training related to the interactions that civilians have with each other and military members, they started talking and participating in the discussions."
Some of the interaction also centered on new technologies and smartphone applications that help in a number of ways, including helping a person fall asleep at night.
But, in the end, it was Adams' direct approach that seemed to garner attention.
"It was one of the more insightful suicide trainings I've attended in 28 years of Department of Defense service," said Milford Rosemond, NMETC assistant registrar and a retired senior chief hospital corpsman. "The most meaningful point for me was directly asking someone, 'Are you going to commit suicide?' I would have never thought to approach someone directly like that, but it totally makes sense. By not asking directly, you may miss the clear intent of what the person may do."