By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW) Maria Yager, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs
MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- Results from the 2009 Navy Behavioral Health Quick Poll released Dec. 16, show work stress levels are on the rise among Sailors, but most are using positive methods to cope.
The poll, sponsored by Navy Operational Stress Control (OSC) and OPNAV N135, sought to assess perceptions of stress and suicide prevention.
“The main areas of focus were level and type of stress, coping methods for dealing with stress, perception of command support for stress, and awareness of suicide prevention mechanisms. Some of these topics were assessed for the first time in the Navy or DoD (Department of Defense) on this poll,” said Dr. Paul Rosenfeld, head of Navy Personnel Research, Studies and Technology (NPRST) survey group.
Respondents reported the top stressors were related to work and family. Lack of personnel, unpredictability of operations, long work hours before and following deployment and insufficiently trained shipmates were among the top work-related stressors. Family separation and lack of time for home responsibilities were the top family-related stressors.
While more Sailors report feeling under pressure, the Quick Poll also indicated that most Sailors use positive methods to cope with stress in their daily lives. Thinking of a plan to solve the problem, talking with a family member or friend, and exercising or participating in sports were among the top stress-relief activities respondents used to cope.
When stress becomes too much to bear alone, the Navy’s trained professionals at the Fleet and Family Service Centers, medical facilities, and Chapels can help Sailors. However, 61 percent of officers and 41 percent of enlisted Sailors report they have not used those and other outside stress resources in the past 12 months. “This finding seems to indicate stigma associated with seeking help,” said Rosenfeld.
When the poll examined Sailors’ perceptions on suicide intervention expectations and barriers more than 80 percent had received training and felt they knew what to do. However, many respondents believed there would be negative career impact and they would be treated differently for seeking help.
As a result of the poll, Navy officials plan to review policies that create barriers to seeking help. Addressing those barriers will require more than simply changing words, according to the OSC director coordinator.
“Policy review is just one part of the Navy’s OSC,” said Capt. Lori Laraway, OSC program sponsor. “We also aim to provide Sailors and leadership with the educational tools and awareness needed to recognize stress in their work and everyday lives, as well as to know when to seek help.”
OSC concepts include how to identify stress issues and what steps to take. They are currently included in Navy educational curriculum, briefed before deployments and taught during basic training.
“We want our Sailors to understand that stress can be good, but too much can cause them harm.” Laraway said. “The tools we are fielding are designed to create a common language to talk about stress and provide resources for Sailors and leaders to get the help they need, when they need it, to overcome adversity and challenge and grow resilient.”
The Navy plans to repeat the poll in 2010.
More information from the 2009 Behavioral Health Quick Poll is available at https://quickpolling.nprst.navy.mil/execsum_BehavioralHealth_May09.pdf
Quick Polling is headed up by NPRST. It is designed to target one specific subject with 15 to 20 questions and provide Navy leaders with results within a few weeks.
The polls provide reliable, credible, and representative data with +/- 5 percent or less margin of error, and leadership uses the results of the polls to help make policy and program decisions.