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How Virtual Reality Is Helping Prepare Service Members to Support Peers in Emotional Distress

The US Air Force has implemented virtual reality technology into its training process, aiming to offer airmen the necessary practical experience. The process is designed to simulate a mental health emergency that will be expanded to incorporate military spouses as well. The Air Force seeks to destigmatize soldiers’ mental health issues and offer resources to other soldiers who are in a position to help. According to the Defense Department’s annual suicide report, 498 military service members died by suicide in 2019.

The Air Force is surpassing traditional computer-based and small discussion training to prepare to engage with someone in emotional distress and encourage them to get help. Talking through situations and what to say to someone who is planning on committing an act of violence against themselves or others is nothing like actually living through it, according to mental health professionals. The virtual reality experience offers a more realistic training process where you must speak words out loud, creating a completely different situation.

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