ARLINGTON, Va. - Since 2016, the Department of Defense has honored exemplary programs of each Military Department, for their exceptional efforts to increase suicide prevention awareness and community through engagement throughout the month of September--which is Suicide Prevention Month.
This year the U.S. Army Garrison White Sands Missile Range, White Sands, New Mexico was selected as the Army recipient of the 2020-2021 DoD Suicide Prevention Recognition.
'The Department recognizes suicide prevention requires year-round dedication and honors those programs that have positively influenced suicide prevention efforts," said Gilbert Cisneros, Under Secretary of Defense.
The USAG WSMR Army Substance Abuse Program collaborated with other agencies in the community to host several year-round activities for suicide prevention.
"Connect to Protect: Be There", was the message and focus for WSMR throughout from 2021-2021. ASAP and other agencies within their community hosted several activities for suicide prevention for a year-round prevention effort.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions and protocol, WSMR was creative in developing 12 activities to bring awareness to the community. Four of the main activities were the push-up challenge, a community pledge, training, and a public service announcement leading up to an all-encompassing event, Connect to Protect: Train Your Mind, Challenge your Body.
ASAP engaged with service members, DOD employees, and Family Members to participate in a pushup challenge on Sept. 1, 2020. The challenge called for participants to perform 17 pushups daily for a month.
The number 17 was chosen as a way to represent the daily number of veterans who reportedly commit suicide.
Community members signed a suicide prevention pledge to demonstrate their personal commitment to prevention. According to the WSMR ASAP team, the pledge is a promise to 'Be There' for teammates, family and friends by checking-in with a friend, or co-worker, learning the resources available, being the one who reaches out first, and setting the example by creating an environment where asking for help is a strength. The campaign was initiated October 2020 and the signed pledges were posted from December 2020 - February 2021.
Over 56 training sessions were provided to Soldiers and Army Civilians, using the Ask, Care, Escort training method. According to the EAP coordinator, participation in the classes continued to increase after each class with students staying behind after class to ask more questions about suicide attempts. The training was offered virtual and face-to-face with over 1,550 attendees in total.
Public Service Announcement
The WSMR ASAP team produced a 2-minute public service announcement titled, WSMR Let's Talk with the assistance of community members and the visual information branch to enhance prevention efforts by reducing suicidal behavior.
The PSA illustrated the importance of a community approach to prevention by depicting actors who finished each other's sentence to emphasize how we should pay attention to warning signs and not be afraid to ask whether someone is contemplating suicide. The video ends with closing remarks from the WSMR commanding general and the post command sergeant major.
Connect to Protect: Train Your Mind, Challenge your Body
This event was held as a kick-off to the 2021 Suicide Prevention Month. According to Sandra Class, WSMR ASAP program manager, this event was intended to challenge participants physically while increasing awareness about the resources available at WSMR.
"The Department applauds these recipients for their steadfast commitment and imaginative efforts to advance awareness and emphasize support for service members, their Families, and DOD civilian personnel," said Cisneros.