Release
Immediate Release

DoD Wants You to 'Connect to Protect' for Suicide Prevention Month

Sept. 16, 2021

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) continues its observation of Suicide Prevention Month (SPM) throughout September. 

Every death by suicide is a tragedy and the DOD will not relent in its year-round effort to prevent suicide across the United States Armed Forces.  Suicide prevention is a top priority at DOD.  The Department continues to advance prevention efforts, track and evaluate progress, enhance lethal means safety, and promote resilience while working to eliminate stigma.

DOD observes SPM by emphasizing and bringing greater attention to our suicide prevention efforts and connecting our military community to resources. The Secretary of Defense and leaders across the military services are reinforcing the principle that reaching out for help is a sign of strength. 

This year, the DOD adds special emphasis to connectedness, which highlights the critical role relationships and interpersonal connections to family, friends, the community, and resources can play in preventing suicide.  Connectedness is a protective factor that can reduce the risk of suicide.  Building and strengthening social connections you can count on, as well as developing a sense of belonging – while connecting with resources – can help prevent a crisis.

“When we talk about the health of our Force, we often focus on the physical well-being and overlook the pain and suffering that mental health challenges cause, along with everyday worries such as relationship problems and financial burdens,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III.  “But treating mental health is just as important as treating any physical injury.  We have to heal both visible and invisible wounds.”

The DOD SPM campaign spreads the message: “Connect to Protect: Support is Within Reach.”  It asks leaders across DOD, Service members, military families, and DoD civilians to connect with one another and with resources to prevent suicide.  “Support is not limited to traditional mental health counseling.  Instead, it encompasses reaching out to financial counselors, chaplains, Military OneSource and Military and Family Life Counselors, friends, family, and your community– including firearm shop owners and pharmacists among others,” said Dr. Karin A. Orvis, Director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.

“Now more than ever we need your help to stay connected.  This Suicide Prevention Month, we ask leaders, Service members, and their families to connect and reach for support,” said the Honorable Gilbert Cisneros, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. “Take steps to listen.  No one has to be alone in their challenges.  Talking to someone, such as a family member, a battle buddy, or a counselor at Military OneSource who understands your experiences, can help lift burdens off your shoulders and encourage you to use available resources,” said Cisneros.

While support may look different to each individual, Suicide Prevention Month highlights the various factors that play into suicide prevention.  It includes strengthening communication skills to safely talk with others about suicide, taking precautions to safely store lethal means such as firearms and medications, and educating others about the misconceptions and facts about suicide.  These are all measures DOD is highlighting throughout Suicide Prevention Month and beyond.

Through the public health approach, DOD is working with military installations and partners across the federal and non-federal space to raise awareness of suicide prevention, encourage people to connect and seek support, and highlight the various helpful resources available to our military community – at home, abroad, and online.

For more information on SPM and resources available, check your local service installation and Veterans’ organization.  To view SPM resources from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, visit www.dspo.mil/spm.

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Service members and veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a service member or veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans/Military Crisis Line for confidential support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

Because suicide is a public health issue and scientific research indicates that certain types of reporting can negatively impact vulnerable individuals, reporters covering this topic can visit ReportingOnSuicide.org for important resources on communicating about suicide.

 

Military One Source
Veterans Crisis Line