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Virtual Reality being used to curb military suicide rate

Virtual Reality training working to curb suicide rate
Posted at 11:41 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 19:38:28-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Each year we lose hundreds of service members and military veterans to suicide. The Air Force is turning to a new tool to try and save lives.

Moth and Flame VR is an immersive training company that films different scenarios for virtual reality (VR) headsets.

The Air Force is using those experiences to train airmen on suicide prevention.

“What we’re seeing by using virtual reality for trainings that were previously taught in powerpoint is that the learner has an increased level of confidence, an increased competency level and higher engagement with the material,” Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications for Moth and Flame Megan Cornish said.

The most recent VA and DOD numbers show 503 service and 193 family members died by suicide in 2019. 17.6 veterans died by suicide daily in 2018.

So far, a thousand airmen have taken part in this VR training and 98 percent of them said they would recommend it to others according to Moth and Flame.

“It’s like role play where someone can really practice being in a scenario,” Cornish said, “It’s really phenomenal to be on base and see airmen go through this training and say ‘wow, after doing that I actually know what I would say to someone who’s actually considering suicide.’”

It’s a matter close to Kristen Christy’s heart.

She lost her first husband to suicide in 2008. She is the 2018 Air Force spouse of the year and holds trainings on suicide prevention. She also helped spearhead the three-digit suicide lifeline number, 988, which debuts in 2022.

Before Donald Christy's deployment
The Christy family before Donald's deployment

“This is my passion and my purpose and seeing so many different programs, this one excites me the most,” Christy said.

Christy said this is the most innovative process she’s seen. She was honored to play a role in the VR training for military spouses. There are also airmen to airmen scenarios and supervisor to airmen scenarios. The trainings help all involved in the military know how to better react in desperate situations.

“If we can curb the suicide rate in the military,” Christy said, “Think about the lasting effects and that will eventually help in the veteran realm.”

Moth and Flame is contracted with the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command to launch suicide prevention training for all airmen over the next two years.

They also build other reality experiences for the Air Force including flight training and sexual assault prevention. And work with corporations on trainings as well.

To see Elizabeth Watts’ past report on Kristen Christy click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling, there is help available 24/7.

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - When you call there is an option to talk with someone specifically on the Military Crisis Line.
  • Veterans Crisis Line - The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, anonymous, confidential resource that’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.
  • The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, anonymous, confidential resource that’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.