Airmen use VR during Suicide Prevention Training

Airmen use VR during Suicide Prevention Training
An Airman from the 6th Air Refueling Wing participates in a Virtual Reality suicide prevention training at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. This was the first time VR gear has been used for suicide prevention training at MacDill AFB since its introduction to Air Mobility Command. Photo credit Airman 1st Class Hiram Martinez

In an effort to combat the increasing suicide rates across the Air Force, the 6th Air Refueling Wing Integrated Resilience Team incorporated new technology and training methods, providing Airmen with access to a virtual reality suicide prevention system on Sept. 29, 2021.

“This is the future,” said Lisa Williams, the 6th ARW Integrated Resilience Office community support coordinator. “This technology allows us to provide options that will best fit the needs and skill sets of our Airmen and civilians who are required to go through our annual training.”

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The training placed participants into a scenario in which they interact with a person who is in obvious emotional distress. The goal is for the participant to convince the distressed person to reach out for help.

“The training definitely puts you out of your comfort zone,” said Tech. Sgt. William Parisse, a 6th ARW occupational safety technician who participated in the training. “It forces you to critically think about what you’re going to say or do, and depending on what you choose, that distressed person will react.”

Parisse emphasized that the VR training has better prepared him for an encounter with Airmen who show signs of distress, he hopes that interactive VR scenarios will continue to integrate into Air Force resiliency training in the future.

“We are just getting started,” said Williams. “We have already seen the impacts VR has had with SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) training and we are eager to provide our Airmen with these innovative resources. Ultimately, it allows them to push themselves further, in order to be as prepared as possible to save someone’s life.”