Category Archives: Suicide Prevention

Gearing up for 2014 Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide prevention goes beyond training people to recognize risk factors or what to do in a crisis. It starts with every day actions we can all take to build meaningful connections with our shipmates, staying actively engaged and making sure they know they’re never alone. The theme of 2014 Navy Suicide Prevention Month is Every Sailor, Every Day, focusing on peer connections and personal responsibility. Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, Navy Surgeon General, publicly introduced this message in an October 2013 All Hands Magazine article, imploring Sailors to strengthen their connections with one another and “break the code of silence” when it comes to discussions that may prevent suicide.

To that end, Every Sailor, Every Day messaging for Suicide Prevention Month will promote open communication between shipmates to encourage ongoing support and involvement during both calm waters and rough seas. Every day, we each have the opportunity to be there for our shipmates—and ourselves. By taking simple steps to promote personal resilience (taking care of our physical health and seeking support for stress issues), we can lead by example.

Navy Suicide Prevention Month is a launch-pad for continuous engagement at the deckplate level throughout the year. There is no mandatory project or activity for 2014 Suicide Prevention Month. Rather, to emphasize ongoing engagement and underscore the Every Sailor, Every Day concept, commands are encouraged to utilize Navy Suicide Prevention Month products and messaging to tailor efforts at the deckplate, encouraging open communication, personal wellness, peer support and bystander intervention skills all year long.

Throughout the month of September, the Navy Suicide Prevention Branch will release supporting products including information sheets, blog posts, social media messages, videos and more. Navy Suicide Prevention has also partnered with Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center this year to offer additional resources, including a targeted training webinar for SPCs, Health Promotion Coordinators and other key influencers on new and updated tools to enhance local suicide prevention efforts. Bookmark Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s Health Promotion and Wellness department webpage for more information.

Together, we can make a difference. It’s about being there for Every Sailor, Every Day.

For more information and resources, click here for the 2014 Navy Suicide Prevention Month webpage.

Postvention is Prevention

Losing a shipmate to suicide is one of the most difficult situations Sailors may face. Those left behind may experience immediate or delayed emotional reactions including guilt, anger, shame or betrayal, and no two people will grieve the same. In the aftermath, finding balance between the grief process and mission demands can be challenging. It’s important for our Navy family to recognize how postvention efforts can serve as psychological first aid to shipmates and loved ones.

Postvention refers to actions that occur after a suicide to support shipmates and family affected by the loss. Because each situation is unique, examples of postvention efforts can include thoughtfully informing Sailors about the death to minimize speculation, one-on-one outreach to those most affected by the suicide, encouraging utilization of support resources and monitoring for reactions.

For a command that has experienced a suicide, fostering a supportive environment is vital to sustaining psychological and emotional resilience. For many, the impact of suicide will not go away just because the memorial service is over and duty calls again. The Five Principles of Resilience can assist with the recovery process following a suicide, helping to promote a healthy grieving process and a return to mission-readiness.

  • Predictability – While suicide is not necessarily predictable, a command’s commitment to a healthy and supportive environment can be. Encourage your shipmates to speak up when they are down, and reassure them that seeking help is a sign of strength. Ensure that support resources are in place and accessible (chaplain, medical, Deployed Resiliency Counselor and/or SPRINT team).
  • Controllability – After a suicide, it’s normal for things to seem out of your control. The grieving process may seem overwhelming at times. Be patient with yourself and with those around you who may be grieving differently. To allow yourself time to regroup, it’s ok to set limits and say “No” to things that may hamper the healing process.
  • Relationships – Our connections with peers and loved ones can be protective factors during challenging times, providing us with a sense of community, hope and purpose. Take a moment out of each day to ask how your shipmates are doing—and actively listen. Start the conversation. It’s all about being there for “Every Sailor, Every Day.”
  • Trust – Trust plays a critical role in withstanding adversity and extends beyond individual relationships. Similar to predictability, the presence of trust before and after a tragedy promotes a supportive command climate and can help preserve mission readiness while promoting emotional health.
  • Meaning – Following a suicide, it’s common to search for answers. While you may never understand the events leading up to the tragedy, leaning on the support of your shipmates and leaders can help strengthen the recovery process by sharing meaning and fostering hope.

The Defense Centers of Excellence has a comprehensive fact sheet with the common emotions experienced while coping with a suicide, in addition to suggestions on how individuals can navigate those emotions.

For additional suicide postvention resources and support, visit:

Peer to Peer, Beyond the Pier

Talking about stress can be a challenge in itself. Finding someone who can relate to your experiences and help you work through them can seem even tougher—particularly with the range of stressors unique to military V4Wlife.

Recognizing the unique challenges and bonds that service members, veterans and families share, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) has sponsored Vets 4 Warriors peer support line. This resource offers active duty, National Guard, and reserve service members and families access to 24/7, free and confidential support from peers—veterans and family members who can relate to your experiences and feelings. Veterans and family members who have “been there.”

Vets 4 Warriors is not a crisis line, though staff will connect callers with immediate resources if an emergency is imminent. Rather, the network offers an outlet for callers to talk through stressors and get connected with the right resources, with the help of those who understand military life first-hand. Vets 4 Warriors’ “Veteran Peers” work diligently to connect callers with specific resources for any issue: finances, legal matters, medical services, transition or reintegration difficulties and more. They can provide information and advice, as well as referrals. And, support can be ongoing for as long as you, the caller, choose to remain engaged. Veteran Peers are not clinical or medical care providers, nor will they share any information with the military or VA. They’re simply here to lend a hand when you need help getting over any of life’s numerous hurdles.

If you choose to call Vets 4 Warriors, you can expect a non-judgmental conversation with a veteran from your branch of Service, who is ready to listen and offer help—and hope. Veteran Peers are trained to help callers feel comfortable speaking about issues, addressing the internal, external and environmental barriers that can often keep us from seeking help. Best of all, peer support offers reciprocal benefits. By talking with a Veteran Peer, you’re helping him or her grow from personal challenges as much as he or she is helping you withstand, recover and adapt from your own. That is how we truly build resilience. Together.

For more information, visit http://www.vets4warriors.com/ or call 1-855-838-8255 toll-free. You may also email or start a live chat with a Veteran Peer. For OCONUS callers, please click here for instructions.

PCS Season is Here – Keep up with Your Shipmates

Many Sailors are preparing for upcoming Personal Change of Station (PCS) moves this summer, a transition that can bring about as much stress as it does excitement. Transitions can mean disruption to daily routines and separation from one’s social/support network (think exhausting and isolating cross-country drives for a PCS move, or transferring as a geobachelor). Even for experienced PCS pros who are eagerly awaiting the next chapter in their career and life, moves can be tough—particularly when they’re occurring during an otherwise stressful time.

While our shipmates may seem to have it all under control on the outside, it’s important to remain vigilant and pay attention to even the smallest signals that something isn’t right, particularly as they’re leaving a familiar environment and are heading to a new one. You may know bits and pieces about a shipmate’s life outside of the work center—relationship or family tension, financial issues, apprehension about career changes, etc.—but may feel as though you don’t know enough to get involved. Even though your buddy may casually dismiss his or her problems, or may not discuss them at length, reach out and offer your support and encourage him or her to speak with someone, perhaps a chaplain or trusted leader, before the situation becomes overwhelming. The likelihood of making a bad decision is higher when a person is in transition, so identifying resources early is vital to keeping your shipmate healthy and mission-ready.

If you notice anything out of the norm for your shipmate, break the silence and speak with others who know him or her well—a unit leader, roommate, family member or friend. They may have noticed the same cues or observed some that you weren’t aware of, helping to “connect the dots” and facilitate the intervention process. While you may not be able to tell if your shipmate is or isn’t in crisis on your own, by openly communicating to piece things together, you’re helping to ensure that your buddy has resources in place to help him or her build resilience and thrive in their next phase in life.

Ongoing communication is critical. Once your shipmate has checked out of your command, don’t lose track of him or her. Ensure that you have his or her accurate contact information, ask about upcoming plans, and check-in with them on their progress often. Remind your shipmate that they’re still a part of your family and that you care about their well-being. Preventing suicide starts by being there for every Sailor, every day—no matter where they are.

What’s Your Plan to Navigate Stress?

As the days get longer and warmer and summer excitement begins, safety will be a critical focus—from preventing mishaps in swimming pools and outdoor grilling dangers, to preventing fatigued driving during summer road trips. Naval Safety Center’s “Live to Play, Play to Live” campaign is in full-swing, with severalsnp Navy programs engaging to ensure that the entire community enjoys the next 101 days of summer safely and responsibly.

While planning for physical safety helps minimize risk for yourself and those around you, emotional safety and wellbeing is an equally important part of the equation to keep you healthy and mission-ready. We may not know when we’ll encounter adversity, but by identifying positive resources that we can turn to during life’s inevitable challenges we can help prepare ourselves for the unexpected, minimizing the risk of those challenges developing into crises. Just as you would program a sober buddy’s number in your phone to avoid getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, you should take a moment to proactively identify who you’d reach out to and what you will do when you encounter stress and adversity.

To help you explore and identify your resources for making healthy decisions during stressful times, take a moment to fill out your Stress Navigation Plan, downloadable on the Navy Suicide Prevention website here. This simple proactive tool helps you think about your current practices for navigating stress—from a tough day on the job, to financial setbacks or relationship issues—while you’re still emotionally healthy. In the process, you may come up with more positive ways to navigate stress than what you currently turn to and will have the names and numbers of those you trust when you need to talk things through. By writing your resources and practices down now, you’ll be more prepared during stressful situations and are empowering yourself to make positive choices to thrive during adversity, not just survive.

While you’re encouraged to share your Stress Navigation Plan with your closest friends, family or those who are listed in it, your plan doesn’t have to be shared with anyone. Keep it in a safe place (wallet, desk, glove compartment in your car) so that you can easily access it when the need arises. You can even take a picture of your plan and store it in your mobile phone, or save the phone numbers in your contacts list. This is a simple commitment to yourself to navigate stress safely and to remind yourself that seeking help—whether through a friend, peer, leader or professional resource—can help you emerge from adversity stronger and more resilient than before. Be sure to update your plan every few months so that you’re not just ready for stress during the 101 days of summer, but all year long.