September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and Fort Gordon leadership wants the community to know they are taking it seriously – not just during September, but year-round.
Members of the Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon command team participated in a Suicide Prevention Month kickoff event Sept. 2 at Darling Hall.
This year’s theme, “Connect to Protect – Support is Within Reach,” emphasizes the importance of connecting with people and suicide prevention resources, according to Dr. Debra Kirksey, Army Substance Abuse Program prevention coordinator/manager.
“It’s the little things that matter,” Kirksey said. “Everyday interactions build strong relationships as protective factors against suicide.”
Speaking on resources, Col. Pedro Casas, deputy chief of Behavioral Health, Eisenhower Army Medical Center, urged leadership to get familiar with how and where to receive resources at Fort Gordon, noting that there seems to be a challenge with getting word out about what’s available.
“We have a number of services,” Casas said. “We definitely have the structure to support our team both active-duty and our beneficiaries.”
The key is to get the message out down to “the most junior levels,” he added. Perhaps just as important, Casas said, is for leadership to connect with service members on a personal level, citing relationships and financial issues as top reasons for people entering his clinic.
“My challenge to each you today is to ask those questions – ‘Are you doing alright?’” Casas said. “If you ask those questions, we can do our part to help.”
Reiterating some of what Casas shared, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeff Dillard, Fort Gordon Family Life chaplain, read aloud the Cyber Center of Excellence Suicide Prevention Month Proclamation, then the installation’s highest-ranking commanding officers each signed the proclamation.
“This joint signing of the proclamation shows that suicide prevention and the Fort Gordon community is a ‘People First’ priority and ensures that every Soldier, DA civilian, and family member know they are supported when facing adversity,” Kirksey said.
In closing, Brig. Gen. Paul T. Stanton, CCoE and Fort Gordon commanding general, said that at “no time is this more relevant” as now.
“My challenge that I will issue to the commanders is do something active … dig deep into your list of contacts, find somebody you haven’t talked to recently, and check how they’re doing,” Stanton said. “Find somebody in your organization that you haven’t talked to in a while and see how they’re doing. And if we all do that, it’s exponential growth.”
If you or someone you is struggling, reach out to a fellow service member, family, friend, coworker, or chaplain. Reaching out could wind up being one of the most important decisions you make. You can also reach out by calling the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) or via text at 838255. This free resource offers confidential, immediate assistance 24/7.