Connect to Protect logo.jpg

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and the Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Program's awareness campaign will focus on the theme "Connect to Protect." (Department of Defense graphic)


Suicide Prevention Month campaign centers on theme ‘Connect to Protect’


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 1, 2020) – Everyone can help to prevent suicides in their community, and September’s Suicide Prevention Month theme focuses on a message of connectivity.

The Department of Defense chose “Connect to Protect” for the annual awareness campaign to emphasize how relationships matter. Family members, friends, co-workers, and community members can impact the lives of others every day, and suicide prevention isn’t limited to intervening when someone is at risk.

Ways to support others:

  • Thoughtful communication – let your family, friends and colleagues know you care.

  • Plan activities you can enjoy together.

  • Listen when they want to talk.

  • Accept others’ experiences without judgement.

  • Offer reassurance, and express care and concern.

  • Encourage them to get help and stay in touch.

  • Get to know your military and community resources.

Even in a time when people are encouraged to be physically distant because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still ways to make meaningful connections.

“There are definitely challenges associated with isolation and social distancing that impact our ability to engage in physical activities that promote connections,” said Megan Corbett-Hanson, Fort Drum’s Suicide Prevention Program manager. “Luckily, connectedness does not solely rely on face-to-face interaction. Being there for one another, developing trusting relationships, listening, and offering encouragement can all enhance connections.”

Corbett-Hanson said that the Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Month campaign will include education, outreach, and awareness events.

“With the pandemic, we have had to alter our campaign events slightly to reduce face-to-face interactions,” she said. “We have limited class sizes to enable physical distancing, and we are maximizing social media efforts and static displays to raise awareness.”

She said that Soldiers can register for an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST) class to certify them as gatekeepers for their units.

“In this training, they will learn practical skills to identify suicidal behavior, methods for engaging in a conversation with a person in crisis, and techniques for ensuring their immediate safety,” Corbett-Hanson said.

Soldiers in the rank of sergeant and above can register for the Ask-Care-Escort (ACE) and ACE-Suicide Intervention (ACE-SI) Training for Trainers certification courses. This enables them to provide ACE and ACE-SI training at their units and at in-processing.

Corbett-Hanson said that the Fort Drum Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) staff has scheduled training opportunity days for 10th Mountain Division (LI) units on Sept. 3 and Sept. 25 so that Soldiers can complete annual ACE and ASAP training requirements.

“For our outreach campaign, we are using social media to raise awareness about suicide and to promote suicide prevention,” she said. “Throughout the month, we will be posting resources, information and ways people can prevent suicide. Traditionally, we would host information tables at multiple community events, but most of these events have been cancelled due to COVID-19.”

Corbett-Hanson said that the traditional Ghost Formation display will be at various locations across the installation to remind people about Suicide Prevention Month.

“This is a display of a Soldier’s boots that are painted white to represent those we have lost to suicide,” she said. “This static display also provides resources to prevent suicide.”

People are also encouraged to use Suicide Prevention Month as an opportunity to learn how they can support someone in a crisis.

Warning signs can include:

  • Withdrawing from family, friends and co-workers

  • Talking about suicide or expressing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness

  • Sudden changes in mood or personality

Take action:

  • Listen and offer support. Be calm and express concern. Ask how you can help.

  • If someone seems at imminent risk for suicide, do not leave them alone. Contact a crisis line, chaplain, health provider or 911. The Veterans/Military Crisis line is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Remove any weapons, drugs or other means of self-harm from the area if possible.

The Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Program is located in the Soldier and Family Readiness Center, Bldg. 10250, on 4th Armored Division Drive. For more information, call (315) 772-9018.