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Being a Suicide Prevention Instructor

  • Published
  • By Courtesy of Tech. Sgt. Ashley Shippee
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

I’m sometimes known as the “Green Dot Lady,” but my real name is TSgt Ashley Shippee and I have been teaching Suicide Prevention for the past three years. During that time, I have instructed 58 classes and about 1,700 students here at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Over the years, I have learned that teaching suicide prevention is challenging in several ways.  The biggest difficulty is that suicide is a sensitive subject and everyone reacts differently. Many of the students have a close connection with the topic, and it causes them to become emotional or shut down. For that reason, I have to be mindful of how I teach the class; balancing real education while still remaining sensitive to others.

The classes remain interesting and relatable by correlating the topics to situations I have been through or an experience of someone else. It is challenging to try to connect with a room full of people, and we don’t want to make this “just another mandatory training.” Our goal is to curb the mindset that nothing can be done if the person wants to commit suicide or hurt themselves.

It’s vitally important and it’s my job to try to challenge those student’s preconceived notions and broaden their scope. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility on the instructor to reach out to the students and hit your main points so the information sticks. The awareness and prevention of suicide is crucially important and it’s our job to try to make others see that as well. It’s common that Airmen will stay behind after a class to talk privately with me or the other instructors about their own experiences or their concern for a loved one. This interaction is what pulls us to teach and I think I can say on behalf of the other Green Dot instructors we genuinely care about our Wingmen and want to make a difference.

It’s not always easy, but I love teaching suicide prevention. It is an important topic that affects everyone in some way; no matter how difficult it is to instruct or reach the students, I feel the message that I’m delivering is so important that I want to continue teaching because even if I only reach one, it’s worth it. Regardless of who is in my class whether they are military or civilian, despite rank or age; we all have been impacted by suicide in some capacity. By remembering the victims and understanding the signs and resources available, we will empower ourselves to know how to react in the future whether it is someone close to us, a coworker, or a member of our Little Rock team.