Tag 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.

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.

Suicide Prevention – we can all do something…together.

Note from the author:
As a layman, I share the frustration of most veterans who want to do something about military suicides, but don’t have a clue where to begin. This post is written from that perspective. I am not a doctor, but I am a brother to all of those who serve and have served. This is a family matter.
- Jeff Bacon

In working with severely wounded and injured veterans, a few things have become obvious to me. First, it is healing when veterans get together. They understand each other. They often share similar values and even when they don’t, they trust each other. In many cases veterans come home and return to communities that do not understand them. Veterans, however, understand other veterans. Togetherness is important.

Second, as Admiral Mike Mullen – champion of veteran issues during and after his tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – has said many times, the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense simply cannot provide sufficient support to the millions of veterans throughout the country on their own. Communities, nonprofits, and other veterans must work together if we are ever going to put a dent in the alarming suicide rates. All of us – you and me – must wrap ourselves around those who served and be there to help each other heal.

Isolation has been linked to suicide. It may not be the cause—rarely is there a single “cause” for suicide—but it has been identified as a contributing risk. Those of us who are not psychiatrists may feel helpless when it comes to treating someone who is contemplating taking his or her own life, but we can all get involved by just being there. Treatment is not our role, but we can visit, or call, or even tap out a quick text message to show that we care. We can make it known that he or she does not have to face life’s struggles alone. All veterans must navigate through their own challenges; but they do not have to travel by themselves.

This is hard. It takes real commitment, not just slogans or national awareness campaigns. It requires us to get our hands dirty, to concentrate on individuals rather than demographic groups. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it takes love for one another. This will not be solved by research. It will be solved by veterans helping veterans, Sailors helping Sailors, one at a time, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with them as they struggle to sort through life’s obstacles.
If we do that, I honestly believe we can save lives, and that is something veterans – even those of us without a Ph.D. – know how to do.

About the Author: Jeff Bacon is the well-known creator of the Broadside and Greenside cartoons for Military Times. What some may not know is that Jeff works with the Wyakin Warrior Foundation. He, alongside a team of veterans in his home state of Idaho, guides and mentors seriously wounded veterans through critical journeys in their lives: retraining, reintegration, and college. The foundation’s work empowers wounded veterans by helping them fulfill personal promises and redefine success. Additionally, he is an active member of the National Cartoonists Society and has assisted with the “Support the Troops” initiative arranging visits by professional cartoonists to active duty and VA hospitals to give back to those who served.

September is Navy Suicide Prevention Month. For more information, visit http://www.suicide.navy.mil.

“Thrive in your Community” – 2013 Navy Suicide Prevention Month

(U.S. Navy Photo, 130824-N-MN975-009, by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin A. Johndro/Released)

(U.S. Navy Photo, 130824-N-MN975-009, by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin A. Johndro/Released)

Suicide prevention goes beyond training people to recognize risk factors, warning signs or what to do in a crisis. You may not realize it, but suicide prevention happens every day when you do something kind for someone who didn’t expect it, or just take the time to actually listen to someone when you ask how they’re doing. It’s hard to quantify exactly how many lives you’re impacting or how you’re impacting them, but the one fact you can count on is that the little things you do mean something big to someone else. Often when we realize that we’ve helped others, we have a renewed sense of purpose and contribution even when we’re experiencing our own challenges and setbacks.

Each September, the Armed Forces recognize Suicide Prevention Month in order to encourage ongoing proactive conversation about stress so that service members and their families feel more comfortable seeking help. Navy’s theme for Suicide Prevention Month this year is “Thrive in Your Community.” Through our recent NavyTHRIVE communications, we’ve discussed the importance of taking actions to help yourself grow in the face of stressors. The ability to thrive is the next step in building resilience, solidifying the relationship between personal responsibility and supportive communities. This year’s Suicide Prevention Month theme underscores that concept, highlighting a sense of community and purpose as protective factors during times of adversity. We’re all in this together and by helping others, you help yourself.

To support “Thrive in Your Community” efforts, Sailors are encouraged to get together and make a difference to others. There is no mandatory requirement or minimum level of engagement. You can work on a service project in town as a unit, organize an awareness walk/run around your installation for your shipmates and their families, develop a Public Service Announcement as a CSADD chapter—it’s up to you. Remember, suicide prevention is an all hands evolution, so family and civilian involvement is encouraged. By stepping outside of yourselves and your everyday focus to make an impact and share an emotional connection, you’re not only investing time in others but are investing time in yourself.

Navy’s Suicide Prevention month initiatives are a launch pad for year-round local efforts to build resilience and cohesion, navigate stress and promote a culture supportive of seeking help as a sign of strength. Throughout the month, resources will be released to increase collective awareness and bring conversations about healthy stress navigation to the forefront. Make sure you follow us to get the latest updates. Together, we can help each other thrive, not just survive!

For more information on Navy Suicide Prevention Month, reference NAVADMIN 212/13.

Ideas, resources and products for command awareness are available on the Navy Suicide Prevention Month page, here.