Academy hosts Pathways to Prevention Summit, promotes healthy relationships

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Spradlin
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Recent studies show an increase in loneliness and isolation in Americans, which can be linked to interpersonal and self-directed violence.

The Air Force Academy, recognizing these issues are playing out in military and civilian communities across the country, hosted the Pathways to Prevention Summit, Sept. 23-24.

“Our focus for the summit is not just on reaction and response [to violence], but prevention through an emphasis on developing strong protective behaviors,” said Dr. Ken Robinson, Academy violence prevention integrator and summit organizer.

Robinson, a former Air Force chaplain, said the goal for the summit was to increase positive social connections and teach skills that maintain healthy relationships at school, work and home.

“I hope attendees gained a lot of awareness about themselves and their relationships because having strong connections are necessary to excel,” he said.

Research shows that people who are more socially connected have better mental health, overall happiness, lower rates of morbidity and mortality.

According to Dr. Brooke C. Feeney, the director of the Relationships Laboratory at Carnegie Melton University, these factors play a greater determination in how long individuals live than smoking or physical activity levels.

Feeney said even greater than survivability rates these relationships play a key role in whether an individual thrives. Her definition of thriving included a willingness to try new activities, pursue goals, overcome challenges and find meaning in life.

“People who are supported are more confident in their abilities, more self-reliant and bold in their explorations of the world and more active members of society,” she said.

Feeney cited one study that demonstrated that hikers asked to estimate the slope of a hill would describe the hill as less steep when accompanied by a friend or asked to think about a close friend.

The Academy hosted a similar summit last year to empower survivors of sexual assault and harassment. Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, Academy superintendent, said these summits represent an ongoing conversation on topics of resilience and violence prevention.

 “We’re striving for constant improvement in our culture that will make us a stronger Academy, and a stronger military force, for our nation,” Silveria said.