A four-part virtual symposium will be held this month as Redstone Arsenal recognizes suicide prevention month.
Carolyn White, Employee Assistance Program coordinator, and Soni Benson, prevention coordinator, of the Army Substance Abuse Program at the Arsenal, planned the local campaign, titled “Enhancing Connections for Suicide Prevention.”
Beginning Sept. 7 for four consecutive weeks, the symposium will be held from noon to 1 p.m. and can be accessed via the following link for a live stream: https://connect.apan.org/enhancingconnections.
The same link will house the symposium for viewing any time thereafter, White said.
The series is about “exploring different perspectives, building relationships, understanding what suicide is and how to prevent it,” said White, adding that the local campaign is a spinoff of the Department of Defense slogan this year, “Connect to Protect: Support is within reach.”
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Juan Jimenez said facilitating connections is key to suicide prevention.
“It’s important to reach out to Soldiers, friends, families and teammates to facilitate connections,” he said. “It’s the little things we do every day, like checking in on someone with a phone call or text, that make a difference in the life of someone who may feel lonely, isolated, anxious or depressed” – all common risk factors for suicide.
Connections are indeed “vital to suicide prevention,” White said. “It’s the little things that matter. Even beyond that, it’s the everyday interactions that build these relationships.”
“For our focus, we’re looking at how this plays out in different aspects of our lives, physical, social, spiritual and emotional.”
On Sept. 7, special guests from the local chapter of Team Red, White and Blue will speak on the topic of physical activity and its role in suicide prevention.
Team RWB (teamrwb.org) is a national organization that helps active duty service members transition out of the military.
In their symposium segment, local members will talk about the importance of “getting people together,” White said. “That’s how we prevent suicide; knowing you’re not alone.”
On Sept. 14, the speaker will be Olivia Pierce, Redstone’s Financial Readiness Program manager, an accredited financial counselor and licensed professional counselor. She will offer strategies for financial planning and how to change behaviors and values that may be causing difficulties.
“Unfortunately, finances are one of the biggest stressors individuals face,” White said.
On Sept. 22, Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Charles Lahmon will discuss the role and importance of spirituality in personal well-being.
“Specifically, looking at intentional steps people can take in their lives in order to have that spiritual wellness,” White said.
On Sept. 28, the final speaker will be Dr. Shannon LaFramboise, clinical director at Crisis Services of North Alabama, which is the go-to organization White turns to when dealing with a suicidal individual.
“They are our local resource,” White said. “You don’t always want to send someone to the emergency room.”
Crisis Services helps provide “that feeling, that sense that someone does care about you,” she said. “Human support. Human connection.”
The target audience for the suicide prevention symposium is the entire Redstone community, “the service members at Redstone Arsenal as well as our civilian workforce,” White said.
Because the symposium is virtual/online, she hopes family members and other interested parties will also tune in. The symposium is taking place during the lunch hour to make it convenient for all. “You can squeeze it in on your lunch break,” White said.
The state of our country and the world has created “a prime opportunity for people to feel that loneliness, that loss of connection. Those are the things that drive people to start having suicidal thoughts. You lose your purpose,” White said.
The symposium is co-sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program and the Prevention Education Program, both of which fall under the umbrella of the Army’s Substance Abuse Program.
White, a certified employee assistance professional and a licensed clinical social worker, has a master’s in social work from the University of Southern California.
Prior to coming to Redstone, she as a mental health counselor at Fort Benning, Georgia. She also has experience treating service members with traumatic brain injuries and their families at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Richmond, Virginia.
She and her husband Greg Wholean, a contractor for Army Materiel Command, have a son, Liam, 11 months old.
Anyone who has questions before, during or after the symposium are encouraged to contact White at 316-6098 or email@example.com.
Service members and veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide can use the following resources:
• Call the Veterans/Military Crisis Line for confidential support 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255/press 1
• Text to 838255
• Chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat
• Call the Crisis Services of North
Alabama HELPline (available to the general public): 256-716-1000 or 800-691-8426