Torii Station debuts new crisis intervention program for soldiers

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Members of a newly formed crisis intervention team go through training. Photo by Katherine Belcher/USAG Torii Station
Members of a newly formed crisis intervention team go through training. Photo by Katherine Belcher/USAG Torii Station

Torii Station debuts new crisis intervention program for soldiers

by: Katherine Belcher | .
USAG Torii Station | .
published: February 12, 2013

The U.S. Army has a new tool in its suicide prevention efforts, and the service is looking no further than its own ranks to implement the program.

With assistance from the Army Substance Abuse Program on Torii Station, the first group of soldiers recently completed specialized training – never before offered to military personnel on Okinawa – that qualifies them to be part of a newly formed crisis intervention team.

The team is comprised of four males and four females, all of whom volunteered to be part of this unique peer-to-peer program. For two weeks at a time, one male and one female member will serve as the point of contact for a 24-hour-a-day crisis telephone hotline.

Its primary purpose is to serve as a resource and help soldiers suffering through a personal or professional crisis by guiding them to the specialized resources available to them.

Team members will not serve as counselors, but will listen and provide a sort of “suicide first aid intervention” to soldiers who may not feel comfortable reaching out to a stranger or leadership in their chain of command. The program operates on a strict policy of confidentiality and neither phone calls nor phone numbers are recorded.

Before they could join the crisis intervention team, the soldiers had to successfully complete Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, which they did Feb. 2. ASIST is an interactive workshop held over two days that teaches the Suicide Intervention Model.

Specifically, the soldiers are given information on how to deal with difficult people who may be angry, emotional or despondent. ASIST teaches participants calming techniques and then to perform a “warm handoff” to a trained professional such as a counselor, military and family life consultant or the employee assistance program.

Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Nolan and ASAP Manager James Lovato, are the driving forces behind the program, and each was instrumental in getting the program off the ground at Torii Station.

“We have received great support from the Garrison and we want everyone to know that it is for all the Army – soldiers, civilians and family members,” said Lovato.

Nolan is particularly invested in the success of this program because he knows the importance of having alternate resources available for soldiers, particularly the younger generation who may not be aware of where to go for help or too embarrassed or prideful to admit they need it.

“If you look at how kids react when they get in trouble, they reach out to their peers. This program allows soldiers to talk with other soldiers who know the assistance programs that are available and can put them in touch with them,” said Nolan. “We are not asking our team to be counselors, but rather, gatekeepers to professional help. If we save one life, this program is worth it.”

The number for the crisis intervention hotline is 080-2738-2303. If you would like more information on this or any ASAP program, please call 644-4423.