What is “Military Strong?”

From Memorial Day to Veterans Day, Lewis and Clark County organizations, businesses, schools, government offices, and many others are challenging each other to become “Military Strong” by taking four online courses on military culture.

Provided through the PsychArmor Institute’s veteran-ready certification program, each free course is about 15 minutes and educates learners about military basics and how to talk to its members.

The goal of the challenge is to quickly increase the community’s awareness about the unique needs of service members, veterans, and their families while empowering community members to be more supportive of those who serve.

Course titles are as follows:

  • 15 Things Veterans Want You to Know
  • Communication Skills with Veterans
  • Helping Others Hold On
  • How to Talk to Someone with a Disability

Courses for businesses are listed below:

  • 15 Things Veterans Want you to Know
  • Hiring and Retaining Veterans, National Guard, and Reserve Personnel
  • Supporting Veterans, Family Members and Wounded Warrior Caregivers with Flexible Work Options
  • Supporting a Veteran in Crisis

For an organization to receive the Military Strong certification, 50 percent of its staff must complete the training. It is then eligible to challenge another entity to do the same.

Challenges are presented through an organization’s Facebook page, along with an email from one administrator to another. Each participating agency is asked to challenge at least two local organizations after it meets the 50 percent benchmark.

Who oversees the challenge?

The Military Strong Campaign is a collaboration of the Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition and a local “Mayor’s Challenge” team to reduce suicides among service members, veterans, and their families.

The coalition and its facilitator oversee the program and will track team participation.

How long is the training?

The training is made up of modules, which are each about 15 minutes long. It will take about an hour to complete the entire program. Participants can watch the curriculum in one sitting or over several hours or days. You can also resume the last course or lesson you attempted in a previous visit.

How much do the courses cost?

As with all PsychArmor courses, this certification program is entirely FREE.

What will my organization and staff receive once certified?

At the end of each month, any participating agency, business, or organization that achieves 50 percent or higher staff completion will receive:

  • One ‘Military Strong’ badge window cling
  • A ‘Military Strong’ badge sticker for each employee who completed the training
  • A digital version of the badge will be provided for organizations to post to their website and social media pages. It will also be displayed next to organizational entries in the Montana 211 website and the CONNECT Referral System.
  • A ‘Thank you’ via the Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition Facebook page
  • A letter of appreciation from Mayor Wilmot Collins
  • A mention in a monthly Helena IR letter to the editor
  • Inclusion on the LCsuicideprevention.org Military Strong page
  • Certified participants will have their logos included on PsychArmor’s website
  • A small ceremony to provide the above materials
  • Challenge rights (available immediately after achieving 50 percent participation – a notice will be sent when that occurs).

Additionally, service members, veterans, and their families will receive information regarding community organizations and businesses that have participated so they can frequent them if they wish to do so.

After the challenge is completed, Montana Joining Community Forces will distribute a passport booklet of participating organizations for service members, veterans and their families. They will receive a stamp from each they visit and then submitted booklets will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize.  JCF will hold the drawing during its Dec. 19 Christmas Dinner.

What should I do if my organization is challenged?

If you are ready to accept the challenge, please post to your Facebook account (if you have one) that your organization received the challenge and is ready to become #militarystrong. Please also tag the challenging organization and Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition.

You will be provided with all of the materials you need, including a custom URL to train your team.

Social media example:

We accept the challenge to become a Military Strong organization, just like [Challenging organization]! [Your organization] is proud to join the #MilitaryStrong movement! @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

Social media example:

We’re so excited to have been challenged by [ challenging organization] to join the #militarystrong movement. Let’s do this! @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

Social media example:

Our team has been challenged to become Military Strong! Will YOU join us and make sure your employer or place of business is also #MilitaryStrong? @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

What should I do if we self-nominate our organization or want to do so?

If you want to self-nominate, contact jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov to begin the process. If you have already self-nominated and have received all the materials to start, please post to your Facebook account (if you have one) to indicate that you self-nominated and are ready to become #militarystrong. Please also tag Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition.

You will be provided with all the materials you need, including a custom URL to train your team.

Example:

We are proud to announce that [ enter business or organization name here] has joined the #MilitaryStrong movement! @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

Example:

We’re so excited to start the work to become #militarystrong. Let’s do this! @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

Who has been challenged so far?

After its entire staff completed the training in May, Lewis and Clark Public Health challenged the following organizations:

  1. PureView Health Center
  2. Center for Mental Health
  3. United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area
  4. Lewis and Clark County
  5. Rocky Mountain Development Center

Others organizations that have completed training or are pursuing the challenge are:

  1. Montana Joining Community Forces
  2. Most Wanted Real Estate
  3. Western Montana Mental Health Clinic
  4. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Helena
  5. Fort Harrison MTARNG Risk Reduction Team
  6. Lewis and Clark Library
  7. Breathe, Let’s Start a Conversation
  8. Career Training Institute
  9. City of East Helena
  10. Family Promise
  11. Helena Family YMCA
  12. Montana Mental Health Ombudsman’s Office

Each will challenge at least two new organizations upon certification.

Why should my organization join the challenge? 

Suicide is a community issue. When it comes to preventing suicide among service members, veterans, and their families, there is more involved than just calling a crisis line (1-800-273-8255, press 1 for Veterans).

For them and many others, prevention looks like understanding their needs and their culture, while increasing access to employment, housing, food, social connections, and support.

By participating in just an hour of training, you and your organization will help to close the military/ civilian divide in Lewis and Clark County. You’ll also be equipped to be better friends, partners, employers, and neighbors to the veterans and service members who also call Lewis and Clark County home.

How can my organization participate?

There are two possible ways your organization can get involved – challenge or self-nomination.

Challenges are made by organizations that have already trained at least 50 percent of staff in a month or less. Challenges are presented through emails sent to administrators, and organizational Facebook accounts with the hashtag #militarystrong.

Once an organization accepts the challenge and completes the onboarding process, PsychArmor will create a custom URL. An email template to address employees and distribute the team link is provided during onboarding. Staff members must register to receive credit. They can then watch the videos individually OR they can watch them as a group through a special process. Learn more about this latter option by emailing Lewis and Clark Public Health Suicide Prevention Coordinator Jess Hegstrom at jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov.

The coordinator will have access to each team to track progress and provide support as necessary.

Upon registering through the team link, they can access courses by selecting “My Learning” from the top banner and selecting “My Dashboard.” The certification courses will be assigned to their Dashboard for completion. A checkmark will appear next to the course in the Dashboard after each is viewed in its entirety.

When at least half of organizational staff completes the challenge, the organization will be certified Military Strong and rewarded with a variety of incentives (listed above) including the right to challenge other agencies to join the Military Strong movement. While incentives are awarded at the end of the month, challenges can be made as soon as an organization achieves 50 percent participation.

There’s no limit on how many agencies and businesses an organization can challenge, but there is a minimum of two. Before extending a challenge, please notify Hegstrom at jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov regarding who you plan to tap to prevent duplication. She will also ensure you are equipped with challenge materials, including an email template you can use to make your challenge.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #militarystrong when posting the challenge on Facebook.

Self-nomination

Don’t want to wait? Self-nominate!

To nominate your own organization to participate, email jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov for a kit, including onboarding forms, a template letter for staff, and other materials to make the process fun and easy.

General Onboarding Process

1. Any local business, organization, school, or group can receive the Military Strong challenge from another entity via email and Facebook. Both are suggested. OR you can contact jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov to nominate your organization.

2. To challenge another organization, you must send an email to the entity’s leadership explaining the campaign and how to proceed (see attached challenge letter template), along with the FAQ (attached). A template letter for their employees will be provided directly to the challenged agency during Step 6. ***Only organizations that have already completed the challenge can ask others to do the same. ***

3. After you send the email and the challenge has been accepted, the challenging organization should create a Facebook post announcing their challenge using the hashtag #MilitaryStrong (see example posts in the FAQ). If that is not a possibility due to a lack of social media presence, please contact Jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov to have it posted via the Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Examples:

• [Challenging organization] challenges [organization receiving the challenge] to join the #MilitaryStrong Movement and show its support for service members, veterans, and their families. @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition
• We want to see [organization receiving challenge] become #MilitaryStrong! Come join the movement! @ Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

4. The organization that receives the challenge should post a response on Facebook.
Examples:

• We accept the challenge to become a Military Strong organization, just like [tag Challenging organization]! [Your organization] is proud to join the #MilitaryStrong movement! @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

• We’re so excited to have been challenged by [ tag challenging organization] to join the #militarystrong movement. Let’s do this! @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

• Our team has been challenged to become Military Strong! Will YOU join us and make sure your employer or place of business is also #MilitaryStrong? @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition

5. To move on to the next step, you must get the following information from the recipient and send it to jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov (they can also send it directly to the listed email):
a. Organization name
b. Organization type (nonprofit, higher education, for-profit, healthcare, etc.)
c. Organization logo
d. Number of employees (full, part-time and temporary)
e. Point-of-contact administrator – name and email

6. After you send this information, the participating agency will get a custom URL to access the PsychArmor website, along with a template letter for staff with the link embedded.

7. Once half of the employees have completed the training, the point-of-contact administrator will get a notice telling them they can challenge another organization. The same process will be repeated for each participating entity.

8. At the end of each month, the Suicide Prevention Coalition will award each certified organization with a Military Strong window cling, individual stickers for employees, a thank you via Facebook, a letter of appreciation from Mayor Wilmot Collins and a letter to the editor of the Helena Independent Record, and inclusion on the coalition and PsychArmor websites.

9. After the entire challenge is completed, our partner, Montana Joining Community Forces, will distribute a passport booklet of participating organizations to service members, veterans and their families. They will receive a stamp from each they visit. Then, submitted booklets will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize. JCF will hold the drawing during its annual Christmas Dinner.

What if members of my team are already registered on PsychArmor? Do they need to use the team link?

While already registered participants can access and participate in the separate courses, they must use the team link to have their coursework counted toward certification.

Existing PsychArmor learners can use their current username and password to join the group as previously earned credits will carry over. New learners can register directly from the team link.

To access your courses, please select “My Learning” from the top banner and select “My Dashboard.” The courses will be assigned to your Dashboard for completion. Once you complete the courses, your transcript will be updated.

Which course should we take first?

PsychArmor recommends taking the “15 Things Veterans Want You to Know” course first, as it educates learners about the importance of military cultural competency. The course outlines five questions to ask a Veteran, and the top 15 things Veterans want you to know about them.

What if I want to learn more?

Once you’ve completed the Military Strong Challenge, you are welcome to check out PsychArmor’s myriad courses. They’re all free and will build on what you’ve already learned about military culture.

What is the Mayor’s Challenge?

Helena was one of eight cities nationwide selected in February to participate in the Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families. The program is sponsored by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

PsychArmor was identified as one strategy to reduce suicide among this population.

What is the PsychArmor Institute?

PsychArmor’s mission is to bridge the civilian-military divide by ensuring that every American has the tools and resources needed to engage effectively with service members and veterans.

With fewer than 7 percent of our country having served in uniform, most Americans are unfamiliar with military life and culture. A better understanding of military culture and the veteran community can alleviate many of the challenges veterans and service members face when returning from war or transitioning into civilian life.

PsychArmor is the only national institute of its kind, dedicated to bridging the gap through free online education and a support center staffed with mental health experts.

PsychArmor recruits nationally recognized subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses about issues relevant to the military and veteran communities. Its self-paced courses are delivered within six schools geared toward military culture, healthcare providers, employers, educators, volunteers, caregivers, and families.  It provides critical resources to all Americans who work with, live with, and care about veterans.

Questions about the Military Strong Challenge?

Contact Jess Hegstrom, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Lewis & Clark Public Health

jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov • Office 457-8970

Social media examples

Military Strong Challenge Example (Please try to tag the organization you wish to challenge by typing an @ before its name, as well as Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition): 

[Your organization] is proud to be “Military Strong!” We challenge [organization you are challenging] to join us in supporting our service members, veterans, and their families by learning more about their unique culture and needs. #militarystrong @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Example: 

This week, employees at [Your Organization] worked together to become #militarystrong by completing training to support those who serve for us. We challenge [other organization] to join us. @Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition.