A handful of common themes have emerged from among the installations named as top performers in the effort to reduce suicide numbers among service members, families and civilians, the director of the Defense Human Resources Activity said.
"The theme has been consistent among these award winners: community, family, connection, connection, connection. And more connections," William H. Booth said.
"That's the way we can drive the numbers in the right direction. Across our department right now, the numbers are not going in the right direction. So from this group of award winners, we need to take those best practices and try to drive it across the entire Department of Defense."
The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and National Guard each identified one installation they believed was doing the best work toward suicide prevention during Suicide Prevention Month last year. Representatives from each of those installations traveled to Washington to be recognized for suicide prevention efforts.
Suicide prevention efforts at all five installations, as well as by similar teams at other installations across the department have "worked hard to create opportunities for their community members, both military and civilian," said Karen A. Orvis, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. "We know that's so important for suicide prevention. They built on that 'be there' theme through a variety of activities. From suicide prevention trainings, publications, media efforts, and community activities to foster engagement and connections and a variety of other means to get out that critical information about suicide prevention and intervention strategies and resources."
Elizabeth P. Van Winkle, executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency, said that suicide prevention efforts don't just touch the lives of those who might have considered suicide, they touch the lives of those who surround those individuals.
Suicide affects the lives of coworkers, teammates, families and friends, she said. When intervention can prevent a suicide, all those individuals benefit.
"You may not know the names or faces of every individual you have helped," Van Winkle told installation representatives. "But you have been there for them. You may not know the names or see the faces of the children whose parents or siblings are still with them today because of the efforts you do. But you have profoundly affected their lives. They are out there, and when you pause and reflect on your work, please know that you have played a vital role in all of their lives."