Category Archives: Suicide Prevention

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.

May 18-24 is National Prevention Week

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) “National Prevention Week” is right around the corner. Observed from May 18 – 24, this annual public health initiative is aimed at increasing awareness of mental health issues and substance abuse issues through community-centered approaches. While this week is used to promote public awareness and support, National Prevention Week was developed based on the concept that “effective prevention… requires consistent action.” It’s an all hands evolution, all of the time. This is a great opportunity for you, your shipmates and families to tie in the many ways we can come together to support each other and prevent destructive behavior, engaging the theme “Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future.” Each day, SAMHSA will highlight a new topic according to the following calendar.

May 18: Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use

May 19: Prevention of Underage Drinking

May 20: Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and MarijuanaUse

May 21: Prevention of Alcohol Abuse

May 22: Prevention of Suicide

May 23: Promotion of Mental Health

Visit SAMHSA online for National Prevention Week engagement ideas. You could organize a health fair supporting the daily topics or promote prevention awareness on your command’s Facebook page using SAMHSA’s messages. Even individual action promotes solidarity. Take the Prevention Pledge on Facebook and encourage your shipmates to do the same. Templates are also available online for the “I Choose” project—a great opportunity for individual or group engagement. Just take a photo of yourself or a group of your shipmates holding up an “I Choose” sign personalized with your message promoting healthy choices to prevent destructive behavior.

Navy’s 21st Century Sailor Programs have myriad resources to support your local efforts. Visit Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Navy Suicide Prevention, and Navy Operational Stress Control online for downloadable tools and information. For more resources, including Tobacco Cessation information, visit Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s Health Promotion and Wellness site.

Our Efforts to Thrive Continue

US Navy Photo/Released

Rear Admiral Sean S. Buck
Director, 21st Century Sailor Office
U.S. Navy Photo/Released

During my nearly 30 years of service in our Navy, it’s safe to say that I’ve encountered my fair share of stress—both operational and personal. No matter the source, there was always something that I could count on to help me navigate, see things clearly, and keep an even keel; the camaraderie and cohesion I shared with my fellow Sailors.

As a leader, I’ve had to learn to “bounce back” from adversity as soon as possible in order to maintain my ability to look out for my Sailors and guide our mission. But as we’ve learned this month, the difference between bouncing back and thriving is one’s sense of community—I didn’t bounce back on my own; I had support. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about community is that you have to take care of yourself in order to help those that depend on you. Having the strength to seek help has to be something you can identify within before you can truly encourage others to do the same. Yet the courage to accept help is where it begins. Our natural inclination as service members is to give and not receive. But when we can find a way to do both—encouraging our shipmates to speak up about their stressors, and also speaking up about our own—we’ve evolved. The smallest action can have a rippling impact and we must all lead by example.

September may be coming to a close, but our efforts to help one another navigate stress, build resilience and thrive will continue. As we wrap up Suicide Prevention Month, take a moment to read about the impressive efforts that took place in our Navy over the past few weeks. I have an immense sense of pride knowing that I serve with Sailors who truly look out for and support their shipmates through calm and rough seas. Honor, courage and commitment at their finest.

  •          Joint Intelligence Center, Central Command Unit 0274 partnered with personnel from Information Dominance Corps East to contribute to a Habitat for Humanity Project benefiting the Jacksonville, FL community.
  •          Sailors assigned to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Ford (FFG 54) organized a suicide awareness run. Sailors who participated in the event ran a cumulative 32 miles, one mile for each suicide in the Navy this year.
  •         Navy Warfare Development Command held a Suicide Prevention and Awareness Run, encouraging non-runners to sponsor runners. Sponsors agreed to receive suicide prevention and stress navigation awareness resources in exchange for their endorsement, and the runner with the most sponsors received special recognition.
  •         Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic developed a wall in the break room for Sailors and leaders to post a compliment to a fellow shipmate for all to see as small tokens of appreciation.

These are just a few of the many efforts around the fleet helping us “thrive in our communities.” Thank you for your dedication to one another, and please keep up the great work.

About the Author
Rear Admiral Sean S. Buck is the Director of the 21
st Century Sailor Office, OPNAV N17. Read his full biography here.

For more examples of “Thrive in Your Community” engagement, follow @NavStress on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navstress) or visit the Suicide Prevention Month webpage on www.suicide.navy.mil.

If you, your shipmate or a loved one is having trouble navigating stress or experiencing a crisis, help is always available 24/7. Call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK and select option 1.

Thriving, Not Just Surviving

Trust, one of the 5 Principles of Resilience, plays a critical role in withstanding adversity. It is built through experience and communication, not only on individual levels, but on the part of leaders and larger organizations as well. Starting a conversation about stress and the value of seeking help encourages people to feel comfortable discussing challenges, building trust between shipmates and leaders. Together we can help each other thrive, not just survive.
–NavyNavStress.com Note

Leaders,

I’d like all hands to view this courageous video by PRC Kelsey – an active duty Chief who has voluntarily placed his life story in front of us all.

Look my friends, life is a gift.  It is precious.  No matter what or how bad things may seem, there is always an answer that compels us to choose LIFE and embrace the goodness of this gift, forever.

Some may say:  We always don’t have a warning.  What do we do?

We have to build TRUST with our people—ALL our people, Civilians, Sailors, Officers alike—so that when things are going wrong, we can intervene with every resource the Navy has to bear.  And we have A LOT.

We have to ENGAGE with our people—know their spouses, their families, their plans, their life’s dreams and goals, so we can catch them if and when they fall.

We ARE our sister’s and our brother’s keeper.  And we ARE a family.

Bottom line, no one is going to do this but US.  I need your minds and hearts in the game.  Know your Sailors.  Division Officers and Branch Officers, move your desks in the shops and know your people.  To lead in this warfighting profession, you have to love (and I know of no better word to describe this action) those under your stewardship.  Be a servant leader.  Get out there and lead from the front.

VR/ CAPT Steve Deal

About the Author
Captain Steve Deal,
Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing TEN, will be headed to Tennessee in early November to take the lead as Director, OPNAV N17 Millington, 21st Century Sailor Office. Recently, during a Personal Readiness Summit at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Capt. Deal had the honor of hearing Chief Kelsey’s story first hand. The impact of his story was immediately felt command-wide; leading Capt. Deal to publish the above message on the CPRW-10 Commodore’s Blog , bringing conversations about seeking help to the forefront and reinforcing a sense of community.  Capt. Deal’s efforts mark the essence of caring leadership, upholding suicide prevention as an all hands evolution.

For more information on Navy Suicide Prevention Month, click here.