While the saying “you are who you surround yourself with” is not entirely accurate, it does highlight the importance of investing in and maintaining a strong network of social support. Our ability to connect with others – especially during times of change – is paramount in helping us navigate new territory, manage stress and consider helpful perspectives outside of our own. Healthy relationships built on trust and transparency boosts our psychological health by aiding in our personal growth and providing us with a sense of community.

As part of National Mental Health Month in May, the Project 1 Small ACT campaign (formerly known as the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign) launched the “Caring Connections” initiative to encourage Sailors and the Navy community to actively reach out to peers, shipmates, friends, family members and other loved ones to help facilitate early intervention and prevent suicide. The campaign developed postcard-style customizable templates for individuals to download, use and share on their social media channels as both standalone posts and social media stories. Project 1 Small ACT spurred campaign followers to share these small but important acts of connection, and ultimately the campaign was included in the 1 Small ACT toolkit as an evergreen effort of hope, connectedness and social support.

Looking ahead to this holiday season and winter months, Project 1 Small ACT is again calling on Sailors and the Navy community to amplify connections with each other through meaningful action. With the current pandemic environment, many people are reporting depression and relationships as top issues in Crisis Text Line conversations. It is as critical as ever to reinvest in our support networks, reach out to others and emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage. Building connections helps us feel a sense of belonging and contributes to our sense of purpose, both key protective factors against suicide. At the heart of the Caring Connections initiative is the acknowledgement of the value of connections and relationships in resilience and overall wellness.

Physical distancing now requires that we get more creative in socializing with others. From delivering snail mail, to taking an online class, to shouting out a friend in a social media story, to attending virtual events, there are many opportunities to create memories and deepen connections with others at a distance. Even in challenging circumstances, turning to others to express gratitude and find moments of joy helps us stay grounded, healthy and resilient. Giving the gift of belonging not only helps others, but ourselves.

For more ideas for staying connected this season, follow Project 1 Small ACT on Facebook and Twitter. To access Caring Connections graphics, visit this Flickr. Read and share Project 1 Small ACT’s other recent blogs on connectedness:

Moving forward, be on the lookout for #ACTThisSeason, Project 1 Small ACT’s annual holiday-stress-navigation-themed mini-campaign to help Sailors navigate holiday and seasonal stress. The mini-campaign will also highlight the importance of connectedness throughout the effort and be featured on Project 1 Small ACT social media channels.

Project 1 Small ACT supports the Navy Suicide Prevention Program’s effort to empower Sailors to reach out and ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) if they notice something out of the norm and empowers behavior change by providing Sailors and their families with suicide prevention and stress management resources, messaging and guidance. The campaign promotes ongoing and active engagement to enable early recognition of suicide risk, encourage proactive intervention and champion seeking help for psychological health-related challenges.

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