Suicide Prevention Month: Connectedness can help save lives

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and The Robins Integrated Prevention and Resilience Office held an event called Stomp Out the Stigma to raise awareness and remember those lost to suicide.

Greg Purvis, 78th Air Base Wing Violence Prevention Integrator, is also the Suicide Prevention program manager.

“We highlight this important issue this month, but every day is suicide prevention,” he said. “Every person in the community is part of the team and has an opportunity to work together to protect each other to help save lives.”

The National Institute of Mental Health described suicide as a significant public health concern. In 2020, it was the 12th leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 46,000 people. Suicides are sometimes caused by several compounding factors such as, relationship, financial or legal problems.

To combat this complex matter, Purvis believes connectedness is a major puzzle piece.

“While we continue to see reduced incidents of suicidal behavior and ideation compared to previous years, we are not at zero, so there is so much more work to be done,” he said. “We have to continue teaching members of Team Robins that asking for help is a flex of strength, and that we need to encourage each other to seek out tools to improve our quality of life. “Whether it’s your relationships that are struggling, your work satisfaction, anxiety, or whatever…ask for help. Everybody needs help with something, but not everyone knows how to ask for it.”

NIMH gives these five steps to help someone in emotional pain:

Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.

-Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.

-Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.

-Help them connect: Save the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number, call or text 988. Connect a person with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor or mental health professional.

-Stay connected: Stay in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

“One program I like to highlight that has an incredibly positive and strategic impact on Team Robins is our Community Resilience Program,” said Purvis. “Community Resilience Coordinators are embedded in our units across the installation, and I hope and expect to see that expand.

“Those coordinators are trained in resilience skills, bystander and suicide alertness interventions, and can be an incredible tool in supporting our unit leaders, connecting people with supportive resources, and conducting skill-building training for our Airmen. I’ve seen firsthand how they play an integral role in getting to know our people and connecting them with skills and resources that improve and, in some cases, save lives at Robins.”

To close out the month and promote a sense of teamwork, a Gate Blitz will be held Sept. 29 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at all three base gates.

“It’s a way for us to say thank you to all our teammates and send them home with a smile and hopefully feeling like a valued and connected member of Team Robins,” said Purvis.

For more information on the helping agencies and resources that can assist in a time of need, visit