Air Force Academy helping agencies 'Connect to Protect' during Suicide Prevention Month

  • Published
  • By Ray Bowden
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- September is Suicide Prevention Month across the Defense Department, with each service branch working to raise awareness about suicide and violence prevention.

The Air Force Academy is no different.

“This special month allows the Academy community to rally around the issue and build stronger connection from a community perspective,” said Dr. Ken Robinson, a violence prevention integrator at the school.

The DOD slogan for the month is “Connect to Protect,” meant to emphasize healthy connections to family, friends and communities.

According to the DOD’s 2020 Suicide Prevention Month Campaign Planning Guide released in July, research indicates that connectedness can reduce the likelihood that someone will consider or attempt suicide.

“Having social connections you can count on and a sense you belong can be a protective factor against suicide, while loneliness and feeling like a burden can increase the risk of suicide for some individuals,” the guide reports.

Robinson said the Air Force and the Academy have come to a better understanding of the importance of healthy relationships.

“Relational disconnection can be a significant factor for suicide risk and other forms of interpersonal violence but secure connections tend to be a strong protective factor,” he said.

As the Academy’s violence prevention integrators, Robinson and Megan Lee oversee the school’s violence prevention program and connect cadets and service members to the base’s support agencies, including the Peak Performance Center and chaplains at the base.

“Our program provides programming and consultation to senior leaders and helping agency directors who combine their efforts to prevent sexual assault, family violence and workplace violence,” Robinson said.

Victim advocacy is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 719-333-7272. Advocates respond to calls on and off base.

Visit for more information.

Peak Performance Center
The Peak Performance Center is an accredited college counseling center staffed by behavior health experts who provide individual therapy for short-term challenges.

“We truly care about the person wearing the uniform,” said Maj. Robin Morris, a PPC licensed social worker.

Morris said research from the operational Air Force indicates that a high percentage of patients who voluntarily seek help keep their careers “the vast majority of the time.”

The PPC is the only center of its type in the Air Force and trains cadets to help other cadets to become “PEERS” -- personal ethics and education representatives. Each of the 40 cadet squadrons at the Academy has a PEER providing support and referral services to classmates with developmental and behavioral challenges. 

“We honor survivors, advocate for those who suffer and come together as a community,” Morris said. “Mental health care providers at the Academy do this all year long but [Suicide Prevention Month] allows us to highlight this important issue as an institution.”

Counseling services at the center include stress management, time management skills or adjustment issues, self-esteem, image and identity development, abuse and sexual assault, overcoming fears and phobias, and anxiety and depression.

Call 333-2107 or visit to learn more about the PPC.

Chapel Services
Chaplains at the Cadet Chapel and the Community Center Chapel provide spiritual and religious counseling and assistance with issues ranging from stress and military life transitions to grief and loss.

Capt. Justin Thomas, cadet group 1 chaplain, said chaplains provide personal, moral and spiritual care and treat any information shared with “100 percent confidentiality,” he said.

“One thing we really value is building relationships and community,” he said. “[Chaplains are] embedded in every aspect of the Academy. We love to be there and support our community in its lowest moments and rejoice with them in their highest moments.”

Thomas said chaplains provide “100-percent confidentiality and while they don’t provide long-term care, they do link those they counsel with the Academy’s other helping agencies, including the PPC and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. 

“We want people to know they are safe,” he said. “We want them to know that when they come see us, they have gained a new best friend.”

For all this, Robinson said it’s still important to set a month to highlight the services available.

“This concentrated focus on awareness and prevention allows us to instill hope and create momentum for the other 11 months of the year,” he said.

Visit to learn more. Cadets and faculty can connect with a counselor by calling 333-2636.

To connect with a counselor at the Community Center Chapel, call 333-3300.

Ways to Take Part in Suicide Prevention Month
You can find this year’s Suicide Prevention Month Campaign Planning Guide at

  Here are 10 ways anyone at the Academy can take part in Suicide Prevention Month:

-- Download and display the 2020 Suicide Prevention Month poster.

-- Download and use the Suicide Prevention Month 2020 logo banner for display on your website and social media.

-- Take the Suicide Prevention Month #ConnectToProtect pledge and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

-- Host a contest for people in your community to see who gets the most #ConnectToProtect pledges.

-- Be social. Use #ConnectToProtect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote Suicide Prevention month to your community.

-- Take a selfie. Use the #ConnectToProtect selfie sign to tell others how you are connecting to protect with friends or family. Take a selfie with the template and post it to social media using #BeThere and #ConnecttoProtect.

-- Wear yellow on World Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, to raise awareness about suicide prevention and encourage others to do the same. Use social media to spread the world.

-- Share outreach materials at resource fairs, electronically and at community events.

-- Create and share public service announcements with social media and other channels to encourage your community to #ConnectToProtect.

-- Organize a resource fair in your community that’s live or virtual. Invite organizations that share the same mission and distribute Suicide Prevention Month material to attendees.