By Chaplain Kenneth Koon
In November of 2012 Fayetteville First Baptist Church (FFBC) served as the host for a suicide intervention workshop. Two months later, in January of 2013, FFBC hosted the inaugural kick-off of the I Will Intervene Challenge, a grassroots movement of Armed Forces Mission that trained more than 300 Fayette community members in suicide awareness briefings and workshops throughout 2013. FFBC has served as the Challenge kick-off point for three consecutive years; and in January 2015 hosted the launch of the No More Suicide Campaign – a campaign to further raise awareness and engage the community in taking the Challenge.
Perhaps it is an anomaly, but we are encouraged by recent data published by the Georgia Department of Public Health. Most recent data shows that in 2013 Fayette County experienced the lowest rate of suicide since 1994 and a 50% reduction from the previous year; while surrounding counties saw no change or an increase. Neither AFM nor FFBC takes any credit for this reduction, but it does spur us on to offer more workshops. Certainly, it is not possible to know from one year of statistical data if the reduction was due to training. Nevertheless, I truly believe training does make a difference.
On several occasions after attending a workshop attendees have contacted AFM to provide further assistance for persons at risk and lives have been saved. I have personally been involved in more than 145 such interventions this year and we receive reports back from many of our participants of incredible stories of being in the right place at the right time to help a person at risk.
If the training does nothing more than raise awareness it is effective. But the reality training does much more. That’s one reason that we call it the I Will Intervene Challenge. The Challenge instills participants with the courage and confidence to ask in a caring, non-judgmental way if an individual is having thoughts of suicide. Asking the question opens the door to the rediscovery of hope. The training also helps participants understand the various community resources that are available and most often needed to further strengthen resilience.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among teens; second only to automobile accidents and veteran suicide is 300% higher than the general public. Since inception of the Challenge more than 3000 community caregivers have been trained in the skills of intervention.
Asking the question opens the door to the rediscovery of hope.
Through a grant from the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministries Foundation and the support of several GBC churches more than 1,700 individuals have participated in the Challenge in 2015, a participant increase of more than 40%. Pastors and lay leaders have been trained as well as mental health professionals, law enforcement departments, school districts, Peer Support specialists at the Atlanta VA, and more than 400 concerned veterans who continue to be battle buddies to those who are at risk.
During this season of the year we at AFM pause to give thanks for the support of the Georgia Baptist faith community. Together, with God’s blessing we will continue to turn the tide on suicide and build stronger, more resilient communities for all people. On December 15 FFBC will host their 5th workshop for 2015 and on the 16th training for trainers will be offered to certify additional trainers who can facilitate the Challenge. To register for this workshop or learn more visit NoMoreSuicide.com.
Chaplain Kenneth Koon was commissioned into the US Army Reserve in 1991 and returned in 2010 with the primary responsibility of suicide intervention and training. He currently serves more than 7000 Soldiers and their families as the family life chaplain with the 80th Training Command, USAR.