US Air Force Looking To Reduce Soldier Suicides With Virtual Reality Experiment
The US Air Force is trying to prevent soldier suicides through virtual reality (VR) training, intended to teach airmen and their partners how to comfort individuals in distress.
Leaders from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis recently participated in the test phase of this 30-minute training exercise, with participants wearing VR headsets and entering a scenario where they would interact with an individual suffering clear emotional distress.
The aim of the training is for participants to convince the distressed person to seek help. If they don’t ask this person the correct questions that will prompt them to do so, a training coach will then step in to offer assistance.
You can find more about this programme in the following video clip:
As per a press release, Air Mobility Command (AMC) Commander Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost awarded a contract to Moth + Flame, an innovation studio specialising in the creation of virtual environments and applications.
Gen. Van Ovost hired the studio to develop training that would allow both airmen and their spouses to interact with and assist distressed fellow airmen within a virtual setting.
Lt. Col. Glenn Cameron, 60th Civil Engineering Squadron commander and VR training participant, said:
I think this is a great opportunity to see how technology is being used to leverage a similar experience to that of a pilot. This allows you to have an experience of a scenario before you’re actually in it.
It’s a pretty intense experience, to be honest. You actually see a bona fide actor who doesn’t feel like anything except a real human being talking to you, and he gives you real answers, and there’s an interaction that gives you an opportunity to see when you cheese it up, he calls you out.
Brig. Gen. Norman West, Air Mobility Command surgeon general, said:
We are excited and highly motivated to be the catalyst for this innovative suicide prevention program.
The VR scenario is very realistic and this is the type of training we need to save lives in the real world. One life lost to suicide is too many.
As reported by FedScoop, the number of airmen dying by suicide has risen over the past few years, from a 2018 rate of 18.5 per 100,000 to a 2019 rate of 25.1 per 100,000, as per recent recent US Department of Defense (DOD) data.
Although conclusive data on the 2020 rate is not yet available, initial reports point towards a further increase during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123.
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