Guest speakers talk de-stigmatizing mental illness for Suicide Prevention Month

Kristine Walls, center, and Phillip Corbett, right, both of whom represent the Columbus, Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, spoke openly about their personal struggles with mental illness in the program “In Our Own Voice.” (Photo by: Markeith Horace/MCoE PAO Photographer)

By Bryan Gatchell, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Sept. 27, 2017) – Two speakers visited the Maneuver Center of Excellence here as part of the Army Substance Abuse Program’s Suicide Prevention Month event “In Our Own Voice” Tuesday to talk about and de-stigmatize mental illness.

Kristine Walls and Phillip Corbett, both representing the Columbus, Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, spoke openly about their personal struggles with mental illness.

Both speakers talked about the dark times during the early stages of their mental health treatment processes, about the struggles they faced during treatment, about the loss of social support networks when they opened up regarding their illness and about their coping mechanisms and successes.

“I’m not an open book about my diagnosis,” said Corbett to the audience. “I don’t just share this with anybody. I feel like I’m sharing this today because it may be what I’m saying helpful to y’all to take it back to what you’re doing and help those who are in need.”

Walls said she had difficulty connecting with others, and she recommended that people with friends or family members that have been diagnosed with a mental disorder remain open and receptive.

“A person with mental illness is a person like anybody else,” said Walls, when it came to the subject of empathy. “The key thing is to know what’s going on in their world, to look them in the eyes and say ‘Are you really OK?’ to get through that mask.”

“The best thing we can do is reach out to people,” said Corbett. “We should always check our buddy. See how people are doing, get them talking.”

The Suicide Prevention Program manager, Jamisena Tarver, talked to the audience about what they can do to intervene if intervention is necessary. She cited the “ACE” method, an acronym that stands for “Ask, Care, and Escort” and is the Army-approved suicide prevention and awareness training model. As part of the ACE process, the intervener who notices something is wrong will ask the person whether they are thinking of killing themself. Tarver said that connecting with others, caring, and demonstrating care can prove crucial to intervening.

“Don’t be afraid to step outside your box and say ‘Hi, how are you doing?’” said Tarver. “Get to know who’s in the next cubicle. You’re here more than you are with your own family.”

The program held a number of events this month to aid suicide prevention, including suicide intervention training events for key interveners as well as the event Tuesday on mental illness.

The Army Substance Abuse Program is scheduled to host a further event Thursday, Sept. 28, from 9 to 10 a.m. and again from 11 a.m. to noon at Pratt Hall, Bldg. 35. Donna Faircloth, who lost her son to suicide in 2016 and is chairperson for the local chapter American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will serve as guest speaker.

To learn more about suicide prevention resources at Fort Benning and throughout the Army and Department of Defense, visit For more from the Fort Benning Army Substance Abuse Program, visit

For more photos from the event, visit

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