Fort Drum’s Suicide Prevention Month campaign promotes healthy relationships
A “Pass it Forward” disc golf event on Sept. 8 is one of several activities that Fort Drum community members can participate in during the Suicide Prevention Month campaign on post. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Michael Strasser) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 6, 2022) -- September is recognized nationally as Suicide Prevention Month, and community members have several opportunities to participate in the annual campaign at Fort Drum.

The first event is called “Pass it Forward,” where Soldiers, family members and civilians can visit Magrath Sports Complex between 5 and 7 p.m. Sept. 8 for a round of disc golf. Participants will receive a disc they can decorate with an inspirational message or drawing that they can take home or add to a collection for a public display.

Bill Van Orman, Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Program manager, said the event is a bit outside the ordinary for Suicide Prevention Month, and yet it hones in on the campaign’s main theme.

“Last year, the focus was on building resilience, and we wanted to do something different this time,” Van Orman said. “I started looking at the leading risk factors for suicide, and two of the top ones are relationship issues and work stress. The disc golf event isn’t about training or education. We are inviting people to come out, spend some time with your family, or with your friends or teammates, and play a game that is fun and easy to pick up.”

Van Orman said that when people get out of their homes or workplaces, it can be easier to talk, relate to one another and strengthen social connections.

“When all you have to do is play disc golf and talk, you may not realize it but that’s relationship building,” he said. “Whether it’s family, kids, friends, peer groups – we invite everyone to give this a try.”

The Suicide Prevention Program and Family Advocacy Program will host “Give Stress the Axe,” on Sept. 22 at the Soldier and Family Resource Center, Bldg. 10250 on 4th Armored Division Drive.

“This is a 40-minute stress management class and suicide prevention briefing for Soldiers to get their suicide prevention training credit,” Van Orman said. “But for the fun factor, we’ll have the axe throwing trailer outside. They can go spend an hour in between the two classes and throw some axes to relax, have fun and enjoy the camaraderie.”

Class times are 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. A separate class is available for Fort Drum civilian employees at noon Sept. 22. For more information, or to register, call (315) 772-9018.

On Sept. 27, community members can sign up for the “Angry Words” anger management class to learn how word choice and non-verbal communication impact relationships.

“‘Angry Words’ isn’t ‘Angry Birds’ exactly, but we’ll play a game where you try to knock down this structure with questions taped to it,” Van Orman said. “If you knock down something with a question, and you can answer it correctly, you earn points and then the winning team earns a prize. I mean, honestly, who doesn’t enjoy knocking things down? This is a class where you will learn a lot of different things you can use in your relationships, but it’s also about boosting morale and having fun.”

The class will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Enrichment Center, Bldg. 10262 on 4th Armored Division Drive. To register, call (315) 772-9018 or 772-2279, or send a message to www.facebook.com/FTdrumFAP.

With the fiscal year nearing the end, Fort Drum Soldiers and civilian employees are busy completing annual training requirements. Van Orman said that in-person training classes for Family Advocacy Program, Army Substance Abuse Program, ACE (Ask, Care, Escort) and Exceptional Family Member Program are available from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 14 in the Multipurpose Auditorium. To reserve a seat, call (315) 772-9018.

Additionally, the Ghost Formation display will be rotated through different facilities, and suicide prevention informational tables will be available at local events to help raise awareness in the community.

“The hope is that, by the end of the month, people will have either seen one of the displays, seen something we’re posting on social media, or have participated in one of the suicide prevention activities or training,” Van Orman said. “We get a lot of feedback from units that they want more mental health training, and not just suicide prevention training. That’s why, this month, we are incorporating stress and anger management education to teach those skills that can improve our mental health.”

Maj. Gen. (P) Milford H. Beagle Jr., 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, has encouraged Soldiers not to “suffer in silence” and to reach out to one another when dealing with difficult situations.

“We can actively work on our social relationships now, so later on when you’re struggling then you have those people you trust for support,” Van Orman said. “If I don’t have those relationships and that trust, then I’m keeping it to myself when something is bothering me. So that’s why we often say, ‘Be there for each other.’ Rather than waiting for someone to ask for help, if you see someone who is struggling, offer them help. Be there for them.”

For more information about Suicide Prevention Month activities, call (315) 772-9018 or visit www.facebook.com/FortDrumASAP. The Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Program office is located inside the Soldier and Family Readiness Center, Bldg. 10250, 4th Armored Division Drive.

If you are in crisis and need help, or know someone who does, call the Veterans Crisis Line (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 988 to speak with a crisis counselor, or text 838255.