Category Archives: Cartoons

An Intensely Personal Issue

By: Lt. Mark Peugeot, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam

September is Suicide Prevention Month, but what does that mean for us? 

SP Month CartoonWill it mean more training on suicide prevention? For some suicide prevention is a very sensitive issue. Others, who have not been impacted by suicide, please don’t roll your eyes just yet. Suicide prevention is an intensely personal issue for those who believe that barriers to care are what led to the loss of their loved one, friend, battle buddy, or member of their unit. It is entirely possible that if someone had realized the distress the person was experiencing and acted on it that death was preventable. This is where you are needed! You can help prevent death from suicide and you are the front line in the battle against suicide.

Some may not be convinced to read further, but I challenge you to continue reading and understand the importance of the problem we face as service members together. According to the Veterans Administration, in 2010 we lost 105 people each day to suicide, making suicide the third largest cause of death in the United States for persons under the age of 25. Of the suicides in the United States, roughly 1 in 5 persons who complete suicide is a veteran. This means we lose nearly 18- 22 veterans a day to suicide or as many as 8,000 of our brothers and sisters who have served this country each year. In the past, active duty military service members were significantly less likely to complete suicide and exhibited rates far below that of the general population (VA/DoD, 2013). Department of Defense data from 2012 however indicates that active duty member suicide rates have peaked significantly above the general population (DoD, 2013). If this doesn’t show that the fight against suicide is at our front door, I don’t know what will.

As a clinical psychologist, I know that psychologists, psychiatrists, and other allied health care providers can make a difference when caring for an actively suicidal person. Unfortunately, many times health care providers do not ever get the opportunity to intervene because we were not aware of the need. As a clinical psychologist, one of the greatest hurdles to preventing suicide I see is getting the person to walk through our door. The perceived stigma associated with seeking mental health care is one of the most often cited reasons by my patients when I ask why they have delayed seeking treatment. Often times, after seeking and receiving care, my patients adopt a radically different view of mental health treatment, mental health stigma, and what mental health care means to them.

Many of my patients express concern during our initial meetings regarding the long term impact of seeking mental health care. I have heard people tell me that if they go to mental health that it will be the “end of my career”, “limit my ability to pursue specific jobs/assignments”, and “will prevent me from attaining future success.” Frankly, there is always the possibility that mental illness or a specific mental condition might result in any of those outcomes. In practice, however, that is not often the case for the majority of patients. In my experience, many of the patients that are seen in mental health are able to achieve symptom resolution/management and are able to continue their careers without significant adverse impact. This includes depression, anxiety, and a wide variety of other conditions. In other cases, mental health care has prevented the premature ending of careers by providing the support and treatment needed to return service members to full duty. So, while it is true that some conditions are service disqualifying or limiting, many can be successfully treated with the final result being the return of the service member to full duty.

Accurately identifying those who are suicidal can often be more difficult than identifying persons who are experiencing psychological or emotional distress. Should you be aware of a person experiencing emotional or psychological distress, share your concern with them and encourage them to seek professional care. Ask if they are feeling suicidal or have a desire to harm themselves or others, and if they do, stay with them until you can get additional help. There are three direct warning signs that should never be ignored regarding suicide:

  1. Suicidal communications (talking, writing, etc.)
  2. Preparations (divesting of responsibility or assets)
  3. Seeking access to lethal means (firearms, medications, or dangerous/isolated areas)

If you observe any of these warning signs: Don’t think; ACT to ensure the safety of the individual.

In closing, I hope to have achieved two goals in this article. First provide information about how to identify and protect those in need of care. Second, to dispel misinformation surrounding mental health care and reduce the stigma that serves as a boundary to seeking care. Both issues are critical to preventing suicide amongst service members. Seeking help for emotional or psychological problems is important. Seeking help for suicidal thoughts, plans, intent, or behavior is critical! Simply seeking help for emotional or psychological problems will not automatically end your career. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and resilience. Take care of yourself and the sailors around you and don’t let stigma get in the way of your health.

Together we can prevent suicide.

Bibliography

  1. DoD. (2013, 12 20). Department of Defense SuicideEvent Report. Retrieved August 17, 2014, from National Center for Telehealth and Technology: http://www.t2.health.mil/sites/default/files/dodser_ar2012_20140306-2.pdf
  2. VA/DoD. (2013, June). Assessment andManagement of Patients at Risk for Suicide (2013). Retrieved August 17, 2014, from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: http:// www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/MH/srb/VADODCP_SuicideRisk_Full.pdf

About the Author
LT Mark Peugeot is a licensed clinical psychologist at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. He graduated from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in February of 2014. LT Peugeot completed a clinical internship at Portsmouth NMC in 2012 before being assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam in October 2012. Prior to being selected to attend USUHS LT Peugeot served 9 years on active duty with the United States Air Force.

Bonus: Check out the September issue of Pacific Pulse, USNH Guam’s monthly newsletter, featuring additional health promotion resources.

Good Nutrition can Keep you Healthy from the Neck Up, too

We often think of fueling our bodies with the right foods to achieve optimal performance as warfighters, and of course to manage our weight and overall waisthealth. The benefits of proper nutrition don’t stop there though. Healthy eating habits not only help you stay fit from the neck down, but from the neck up. As we recognize Navy Nutrition Month throughout March, get the skinny on keeping your mind and body nourished, and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”

Combatting stress with a good diet doesn’t start once your conscience kicks in after that second helping of your go-to comfort food, but should be a proactive and ongoing effort. Research shows that people are more likely to select food for taste over nutritional value—but nutritious and delicious foods are easier to find than you may think.

Did you know omega-3 fatty acids have been found to aid in the prevention of stress through their essential role in brain biochemistry?  Rather than experimenting with the unknowns of nutritional supplements (that do not require approval from the Food and Drug Administration), go for naturally-occurring sources of omega-3s. Salmon, eggs and lean meats are excellent—and tasty—suppliers of these vital nutrients and each help you incorporate more protein into your diet, the healthy way.

Why protein to reduce stress? Protein supplies the brain with amino acids, helping to promote healthy brain function through the steady creation of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that carry and regulate signals throughout the body).  Quality protein can be found in a variety of sources, not just meat and dairy products. Try pairing your salmon with a side of black beans, or reach for a handful of raw almonds instead of going for the cookies when you’re stressed.

And then there’s sugar. We all know that tense situations and stress can lead to cravings, particularly for sugar. While glucose is essential for our bodies to function, our body’s sugar supply needs to be slow and steady for good performance. Added sugar can cause your glucose levels to spike, then fall rapidly, thus intensifying cravings and impacting alertness and decision-making abilities, so avoid those peaks and valleys from sources such as sugary drinks, sweet desserts or additives. To find balance, incorporate more of your favorite complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and fruits, to satisfy your sweet tooth, while allowing yourself to have small portions versus the “cold turkey” route. Try a banana and peanut butter sandwich – a healthy, sweet, delicious and protein-packed alternative to your vending machine favorites.

Hungry for more? During the month of March and throughout the year, the Navy has a buffet of resources to support making healthy choices every day. Check out our feature in All Hands Magazine for more tips, and visit Navy Nutrition and Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center to help you incorporate the nutrients you need to stay fit from the neck down—and up.

Laughter is good medicine for stress relief! Navy Operational Stress Control and Suicide Prevention would like to thank cartoonist Jeff Bacon for his continued support.

What’s Next? Navigating Transitions, Pt. 1

Transitions are an inevitable part of life, especially for Sailors. Even the most Transitions1anticipated transitions can bring about as much stress and fear as they do excitement (recall your first months in the Navy or the birth of a child). Transitions encompass everything from a leadership change, to marriage, divorce/break-ups, Permanent Change of Station, deployment, and retirement/separation from service. Each of these situations presents an opportunity to adapt to new circumstances, building resilience. Yet they may also interfere with your usual strategies for navigating stress.

You may be leaving your support network including friends, shipmates and leaders that you’ve come to trust and confide in, or feel like you’re going to be outside of your comfort zone in a new environment or phase of life. Maybe your upcoming transition will impact your finances or time management, or maybe you’re facing a major lifestyle change by leaving a geographic area that particularly suited your family’s needs. Even with smaller transitions, like career advancement, your existing fitness and wellness routines may be disrupted (including diet and nutrition). Regardless of the type of transition, recognizing that life will be different can be overwhelming at times, particularly when you encounter an unfamiliar situation or are managing multiple changes. It’s important to step back and evaluate how you can set yourself up for success in any situation. The 5 Principles of Resilience (Predictability, Controllability, Relationships, Trust and Meaning) can help you, your family and your command be more prepared, manage expectations, stay connected—and thrive.

In the upcoming weeks as a part of our NavyTHRIVE campaign, we’ll be discussing ways that Sailors, leaders and families can successfully navigate the various transitions that may be encountered during a Navy career (including the transition between a Navy and civilian career). We’ll also address how to recognize and assist a shipmate who is having difficulty navigating change, intervening before their struggles escalate into a life or emotional crisis. One critical key to success is a supportive command climate, with cohesion and open communication.

Stay tuned for our next post in the “What’s Next? Navigating Transitions” series when we discuss how to leverage Predictability and Controllability to help you make your next move your best move. Until then, remember “what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” —Richard Bach

This post originally appeared in LifeLink, the Navy Suicide Prevention Program Newsletter. To subscribe to this monthly publication, email suicideprevention@navy.mil or visit the LifeLink Newsletter webpage.

Poor Leader Communication: An Increasing Source of Stress for Everyone

Copyright 2013 Jeff Bacon“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” – Pubilius Syrus

Since 2009, the Operational Stress Control program has been looking at the causes of stress in our Fleet. Some of the usual ones pop up: time away from family; not enough trained people to do the job; long work hours pre- and post deployment. But one that seems to be on the rise is “poor leader communication.”

From discussions across the Fleet (and just like the CO in the cartoon), it seems like the majority of leaders at all levels—from commanding officers to deckplate leaders—want to communicate with their troops and think they’re doing so effectively. Yet their message may not come through as clearly to those on the receiving end. For some leaders, time can be a factor. With a constant high op-tempo, the right moment to communicate can be elusive. Rushed communications don’t always get the intended message across. Sailors feel the force of high op-tempo and unpredictability in their careers too, making it harder to figure out what part of all the information thrown their way to pay attention to. Although leaders may feel like Sailors aren’t listening, and Sailors feel like their leaders don’t hear them, both sides have something in common: the desire for communication during times of high stress.

From E1 to O10, there’s one thing we should all remember: communication is a two-way street. Putting out information with the expectation that people will automatically “get it” because you said it just isn’t realistic. Effective communication must be received and fed back to the sender in order for the full communication cycle to be complete. And how often in our fast-paced world does that happen?

Communication specialists tell us that a person needs to hear a piece of information a minimum of eight times in order to retain it. With information changing at such a rapid pace in our lives as well as within our Navy, that may just not be possible, so what is a leader to do? What is a Sailor to do?

We’ll explore these topics in the coming weeks, and offer some tips for not only communicating a message, but absorbing it as well. Until then, just like the cartoon shows, the first principle is that the word has to get out!

When to Take Stress Seriously

Laughter is good medicine for stress relief…but knowing which resources are appropriate when your shipmate is in distress may save a life. Trying to maintain a positive outlook and taking a moment to smile and laugh is a good practice to get from the yellow zone back to the green. However, when stressors start to pile up and have a more serious impact on our lives, professional treatment and resources may be necessary.

If your shipmate expresses thoughts of hopelessness, purposelessness, or despair, take it seriously. These statements may be subtle warning signs of potentially harmful behavior. Even if you think he or she is joking or speaking casually, statements expressing thoughts of suicide are serious. Familiarize yourself with the resources and ACT. Ask if the Sailor is thinking about suicide. Show that you Care. Don’t wait to get him or her to Treatment to receive the proper assistance (take them to the Chaplain, to medical or the ER. If immediate danger is present, call 911). And always support your shipmate by following up and checking to see how things are going–maybe a good laugh will help him or her return to a positive hopeful outlook on life.

Cartoon illustrated by Jeff Bacon, creator of Broadside for Navy Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

For more information on Navy Suicide Prevention Awareness month, visit www.suicide.navy.mil.

For reference, see Navy Suicide Prevention’s The Truth About Sailors and Suicide.

For 24/7 assistance, call the Veterans’ Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), option 1 or go to www.veteranscrisisline.net