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 21st 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.
Posted in Navy Leadership, OSC, Resilience, Suicide Prevention
Tagged ACT, Community, Navigating Stress, Operational Stress Control, Sailors, suicide prevention, suicide prevention month, US Navy
by Captain Kurt Scott
When it comes to building resilience, the idea of Trust doesn’t usually come to mind. We don’t always appreciate its value because we often take it for granted.
In his “Kicking Off 2013” blog post, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert talks about how incredibly important trust is to life in the Navy. Whether it’s the trust pilots have in their crew chiefs for the condition of their aircraft or confidence submariners have in their shipmates when rigging for a dive – unconditional trust in each other – from damage control to normal operations – is the key for a successful Navy. We can’t do it alone.
Trust is more than just having confidence in yourself and your co-workers abilities; it’s about knowing your shipmates and leaders have your best interest at heart. Trust is built through experience and includes certain expectations (for example, that the parachute will open, the equipment will function, medical services will be there in times of need, family will be supportive, etc.). Trust plays a critical role in withstanding adversity and extends beyond individual relationships. Trust provides a positive expectation from the organization and systems in which we operate and includes integrity, dependability, and competence on the part of leaders and larger organizations.
Trust is also a key to increasing our psychological health. If a shipmate trusts you, it increases his or her willingness to confide in you or to reach out to you. Let them know you care and they will trust you to help them recognize and address stress reactions before they become stress injuries.
Trust, one of the Principles of Resilience and Stress Control (click here to get the pdf)
Captain Kurt Scott is the director of the Navy’s Behavioral Health Programs, Millington, Tenn.
At some point as a child, an adult probably told you “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” or “actions speak louder than words.” Those phrases take on new meaning when we’re discussing the topic of suicide.
Openly discussing suicide is beneficial for prevention, intervention and postvention. It sends the message that it’s not only acceptable to discuss this sensitive subject, but encouraged as a way to show support to Sailors having difficulty navigating stress on their own. But, the way we discuss it and the words we use can actually have the opposite effect if we’re not aware of best practices. Word choice can make the difference between encouraging help-seeking behavior or contributing to a Sailor’s dwindling perception of his or her life. Sometimes, our actions (being supportive, ACTing) and our words are equally important.
To support the concept of “reducing barriers,” the theme of the final week of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, fact sheets on best practices for talking about suicide are available on www.suicide.navy.mil. The information sheet, “What’s In a Word? How We Talk About Suicide,” provides guidance on responsibly discussing suicide and what to avoid: judgmental language, glamorizing deaths by suicide, oversimplifying causes, etc. Sailors, Suicide Prevention Coordinators, leaders, families and friends should become familiar with these practices to help change the culture and reduce barriers when it comes to seeking help. A version of the document will also be available for the Public Affairs and broadcast media community, to ensure responsible reporting and mitigate risk of suicide contagion (subsequent suicides following certain reporting styles).
A simple change in words, like calling an attempt non-fatal instead of “unsuccessful,” can make a difference. By knowing how to talk about suicide, and knowing when to ACT, we can continue to encourage our shipmates that “it’s okay to speak up when you’re down!”
For Suicide Prevention Awareness Month details, reference NAVADMIN 259/12, visit www.suicide.navy.mil or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Navy’s Operational Stress Control and Suicide Prevention programs aim to build psychological strength and resilience. With training and practical tools the programs will help Sailors and leaders better navigate operational stress and increase their capacity to withstand, recover, grow and adapt in the face of stressors and changing demands.
While September is nationally recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the effort to build resilience and emphasize that Life Counts is ongoing. We work year-round to promote a Navy that rewards help seeking behaviors and encourages the honest discussion of concerns and challenges faced by Sailors and their families – an important first step to help mitigate operational stress and prevent suicide. We want everyone in the Navy to know “It’s Okay to Speak Up When You’re Down.”
This cartoon is by Mike Jones a Senior Chief Petty Officer who knows that stress is a part of everyday life in the Navy. Not everyone reacts this visibly to stress so we all need to be on the watch for more subtle indicators of negative stress reactions. If someone reacts like PR3 Smith, know how to ACT (Ask Care Treat) and to get him the appropriate and necessary help.
To view more of the OSC cartoons click here.
For more information on Suicide Prevention Awareness Month visit www.suicide.navy.mil.