NEWTON, MA | October 11, 2006
The U.S. Air Force has awarded the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) Training Institute at Education Development Center, Inc. a contract to conduct workshops for Air Force personnel on ways to assess and manage the risk of suicide. The SPRC expects to train 1300 clinicians at 45 Air Force installations around the world over the next 12 months.
SPRC faculty will travel to Air Force locations in England, Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. Workshops will be held at U.S. bases including Andrews AFB near Washington D.C., Langley AFB (Norfolk, VA), Wright-Patterson AFB (Dayton, OH), Hickam AFB (Honolulu, HI), Elmendorf AFB (Anchorage, AK), and the Air Force medical institution, Wilford Hall Medical Center, in San Antonio, TX. The one-day course will use curriculum developed by the American Association of Suicidology.
“Suicide risk assessment is an essential skill for Air Force mental health personnel, and the Air Force will benefit greatly by providing additional in-depth training on this critical skill set,” according to Lt. Col. Steven Pflanz, the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program Manager.
According to the SPRC, while the suicide rate is significantly lower in the military than in the general population as a whole, suicide is the second leading cause of death among members of the armed forces. Yet, most mental health clinicians—on or off a military base—have received little, if any, formal training in assessing and managing clients at risk for suicide.
“The Air Force has really been a leader in suicide prevention,” said David Litts, SPRC Associate Director. “In the mid-1990s, the Air Force made prevention a priority, and put into place a sweeping, public health-oriented suicide prevention program requiring annual, mandatory trainings for all mental health staff. The Air Force program has been internationally recognized as a model for this kind of program,” Litts said.
In the U.S. alone, over 30,000 people die by suicide each year, the equivalent of one major airliner filled with passengers crashing every two days. In 2002, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, with more people dying by suicide each year than because of HIV or homicide.