Tag 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:

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.

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.