The U.S. Air Force tested a suicide prevention training program powered by virtual reality at the Travis Air Force Base, Calif. An emotionally distressed individual was placed in front of the members of the 60th Air Mobility Wing via VR headsets over a 30-minute training scenario.
The objective was to facilitate appropriate questions and prompt the individual to seek help, according to Air Force officials.
“The unique part of this VR training is that it’s voice-activated, so you’re required to say things out loud that maybe you’ve never had to say before,” said MSgt. Shawn Dougherty, a program facilitator. “[You’ll need to actually say] phrases to Airmen in distress like ‘Do you have a gun in the house?’ or ‘Are you thinking about harming yourself?'”
“This module is an Airman-to-Airman scenario,” Dougherty continued. “The training gives you an opportunity to be face-to-face with another Airman, in an Airman’s perspective with someone that’s in distress. You are trying to talk them down, resolve the situation, figure out what is going on with him, and find out the best scenario to get him to safety.”
Suicides have become a major problem for the Defense Department. Annual statistics showcase a rise in the number of suicides of active-duty and reserve members of the military.
As per a story published in December 2020 in the American Journal of Public Health, “lethal means counseling” and safe storage of weapons could be the key to lowering the military suicide rate.
“The findings show that service members may benefit from lethal means counseling and distribution of cable locks, perhaps at the point when a person enters the service,” stated Michael Anestis, Research Center Executive Director, upon the study’s release.
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