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‘Got My Six’ Campaign Promotes Suicide Prevention

military personnel are in the middle some kind of field training. The GotMySix logo is in the bottom left corner
 By Sarah Marshall

The GotMySix logo, a lowercase g and a 6 with "got my six" underneathThe power of social media is being used at USU to encourage the military community to look out for one another – to find out who has “their six” – in hopes of raising suicide prevention and bolstering a protective social support network.

This month, as part of Suicide Prevention Month, USU’s Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) kicked off its “Got My Six” social media campaign, encouraging the community to identify people, places, communities – even pets – who “have their six.”  Then they’re encouraged to go on social media and share their thoughts and pictures using a hashtag, #GotMySix, a term commonly referred to in the military meaning someone is looking out for you and your well-being, protecting you from harm.

So far, campaign submissions have highlighted support from family, writing “They give me a reason to wake up every morning, greet me when I come home, and give me a reason to keep going.”  Another social media user recognized friends who “had their six” when it came to achieving personal fitness goals, writing that they “support and cheer me along when I fall out of a routine.” Others highlighted support from their pets, who are “always there to greet me at the end of the day no matter what kind of day I've had ... helps me remember not to take life too seriously.”

A civilian woman stands with a sign that says: #GOTMYSIX My dog, Leo, for reminding me to stop and smell the roses… and everything else on our daily walks! She is holding a small photo of her dog who is white and mid-size, he is difficult to see.
Helen Hocknell, a Program Specialist for Affiliations & International Affairs in Financial Manpower & Management, says her dog Leo has her six. (Image credit: Chris Niewinski)

“Through this campaign, we hope to convey in a powerful way how to support well-being and prevent mental illness,” explained Dr. Patricia Deuster, director of USU’s CHAMP.  The goal is to get as many people to participate as possible – service members, families, and civilians – to create a month filled with examples of the many different ways people can and do work to support each other, bringing people together and helping them feel more connected to others around them.

“Importantly, we also hope to shift the paradigm around suicide prevention to a performance orientation,” Deuster said.  “When service members and their families are eating well, are physically active, socially connected, and proactively taking care of their mental health, they are more likely to stay healthy and well.”

The campaign also highlights a Total Force Fitness approach since support comes in all forms, and focuses on a variety of protective factors, like physical activity and nutrition.

Deuster added that suicide prevention begins long before any signs of distress and trouble emerge, therefore, the campaign also aims to convey, in a more powerful way, how to support well-being and prevent mental illness.

A navy man stand with a sign that says: #GOTMYSIX My shipmates and marines
Petty Officer 1st Class Paul O’Brien says his shipmates and marines have got his six (Image credit: Chris Niewinski)

“This is through cultivating protective factors in the lives of our service members and their families,” Deuster continued. “Many possible options for addressing the very complex issue of suicide surround us, but the solutions often focus on mitigating risk factors by taking a reactive approach. We believe that taking a preventative approach, combined with campaigns like #GotMySix, will bolster protective factors and make suicide prevention efforts less threatening and more encouraging to our service members.”

Dr. Paul Rapp, a professor in USU’s Military and Emergency Medicine department, noted that research has shown positive social connection can help reduce suicide risk. He also emphasized the importance of identifying resources and expert help.

“For the seriously suicidal individual, there is no substitute for qualified professional care,” he said.