Beyond The Front

October 9, 2008

Last month, I made a post about Suicide Prevention Week and what the Army is doing to prevent this senseless tragedy from happening. As we’ve seen in the media, the number of suicides in the Army and other branches of the military has increased substantially over the past few years. Recognizing this, the Army has launched an all out effort to confront and combat this alarming trend.

On Tuesday, the Army announced it’s newest suicide prevention tool, aimed at helping to teach Soldiers how to recognize the signs of depression and possible suicidal ideations, in hopes that Soldiers will act when they see these signs and take action. The new tool, called “Beyond The Front” is an interactive video that will be mandatory viewing for all Army personnel. Using the interactive video, the Soldiers will play the role of a Soldier who is depressed over the break-up of a personal relationship, as well as the loss of a close friend in combat. Participants will be able to make choices that will then lead the character, in the best case scenario, to getting help, or in the worse case scenario, to committing suicide, all dependant on the choice they make while taking part in the video. In another scenario, you play the part of a Soldier who notices troubling behavior in a fellow Soldier and friend. Depending on the choices made, the Soldier can intervene and help his friend before he commits suicide, or if a poor choice is made, the Soldier deals with the consequences of his friend committing suicide.

The idea of the interactive video is to help Soldiers recognize signs and symptoms of extreme depression that may lead to suicide, both in themselves and others. They learn how they can intervene for themselves and seek help, or how they can intervene with a friend and steer them into seeking help, before it’s too late. Each time a life is lost to suicide, we have failed that Soldier, their family, their friends and ourselves.

The interactive video, “Beyond The Front” is a collaborative effort of the Army Generals’ Steering Committee on Suicide Prevention, the Center for Suicide Prevention, Research and Studies at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, The Army Research Laboratory and the company Will Interactive.1

“Repeated deployments have really taken a toll in the Army; for some reason, they didn’t want to accept that early on, but now they have,” said Abdoulaye Bah, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention, Research and Studies.2

This is a unique approach to suicide prevention by the Army and one that is hoped to be helpful in reducing the numbers of suicides. The video is graphic in places and probably one of the most realistic tools that I’ve seen. I was able to view the video and actually go through the scenarios. “Beyond the Front” was filmed using actors and some Soldiers from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md as well as Fort Polk, La. The aim is to encourage Soldiers to recognize the slide into a suicidal state and get help.

“The goal is to allow people to play it out before they live it out,” said Sharon Sloane, president of Will Interactive.3

The scenarios are based on interviews with enlisted Soldiers and officers for the portraits of the Soldiers in the video, according to Chris Stezin, senior scripwriter for the project.

“That is the Soldier I want to reach, where the internal voice goes, ‘You know, I could just end this.’ Hopefully it will flick a switch … and they will say, ‘No, it’s not quite right,’” Stezin said.4

I’m really interested to see how effective this tool is. I can see distinct advantages to this and think that I could really be helpful and think it has a lot of potential for helping to decrease this alarming growth of suicides in the Army. However, time will tell how effective it is. Take a moment to go to the Army Suicide Prevention website and browse through the tools that are available, including the “Beyond The Front” interactive video.

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10 Responses to “Beyond The Front”

  1. Major Paul E. Gonzales on November 30th, 2008 7:09 am

    The Kansas National Guard is working on a pre-deployment training program for Army/Air Guard service members. We will teach our first training course on Tues Dec 2nd in Topeka, KS. I am interested in this video. How can I get copy of the video? If we find material on the video that we would like to use. Can we put it on our website as a training tool?
    I would like to talk with someone concerning this video.


    MAJ Gonzales

  2. Terri on November 30th, 2008 9:59 am

    Maj. Gonzales, you might go to the Army suicide prevention website and contact them to see if you can get a copy of the video.

  3. Caroline Juroskt on February 13th, 2009 10:52 am
  4. Lola Lawson on February 17th, 2009 2:29 pm

    Where do I view this video on line ?

  5. SGT Craig on February 26th, 2009 5:40 am

    My unit has just used this video. I like it. I t is a great tool to help soldiers and leaders learn what can happen with the choices they make to seek help, or to help a fellow soldier.

  6. CPT Bill on February 27th, 2009 8:37 am

    The Training Support Center on the nearest active duty post can provide the DVDs. At Ft Rile, call 785-239-4721.

  7. Clint Wirth on April 11th, 2009 10:41 am

    I am an army civilan at Tobyhanna Army Depot. Beyond the front was required suicide prevention training for everyone here. However, I have been thinking that it might be a more effective learning tool if everyone was allowed to work through the various senerios for themselves instead of in a session of a hundred people. I believe working through it yourself would give you more time to study the scenerios and the warning signs, but the army is keeping this wonderful tool “close to the vest”. Are there any plans to make this available to the soldiers and/or civilans in the field?

  8. Terri on April 11th, 2009 11:02 am

    Clint, if you go to the Army Suicde Prevention website by following the link at the end of the story, you can actually view the video online and take part in the interactive scenarios. I agree that having someone standing up in front of 100 people and going through the video isn’t the most effective way to do the training on this subject, but it would take forever to do one on one training at any post.

  9. Kevin Gaudette on May 15th, 2009 8:50 am

    I Googled into SoldiersMind while trying to get INFO about “Beyond the Front.”
    I read about it via a Video Games group. I’d be grateful if folks out there could follow up on the question asked ABOVE by Clint Wirth, on April 11:

    “Are there any plans to make this available to the soldiers and/or civilans in the field? ”

    I just checked out and found:

    Army Suicide-Prevention Program
    Week of March 16, 2009

    A recent Army-wide “stand down” for suicide-prevention training will be followed by chain teaching that must be completed by July 15, 2009. The centerpiece of the recent stand-down training was an interactive video called “Beyond the Front.” Suicide-prevention tools can be found at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine’s Suicide Prevention webpage and at the Army G-1 Commander Toolkit website.
    “Must be completed by July 15, 2009″

    I’m trying to link that with another comment, from the Games group:


    It’s an important project, and I’d like to get a rough idea as to the dates and numbers, to answer Clint Wirth’s question:

    “Are there any plans to make this available to the soldiers and/or civilans in the field? “

  10. Terri on May 15th, 2009 2:22 pm

    Kevin, as I answered Clint, if you go to the Army Suicide Prevention website, Beyond the Front can be viewed there. The goal is to ensure that all personnel at each Army installation participates in the Suicide Prevention training by July 15th. At the installation where I work, everyone has been through that phase of suicide prevention training and we’re actually starting on phase II next week. Anyone can view the videos online and participate in the interactive part of it. It’s good training for everyone, not just military members. I’m sure as the numbers that they’ve reached with the video, as it’s being conducted at each individual installation by the Chaplain teams. I’m sure that as each installation completes the training, their numbers have to go up to Department of the Army, so that might be where you need to seek numbers from. Hope this helps.

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