By Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs
MILLINGTON, Tenn.- Suicide prevention continues to be one of the highest priorities for Navy Leadership according to the most recent suicide prevention update released Feb. 18.
“Every single suicide loss is a tragedy with far reaching impact to the health and readiness of our entire Navy community,” said Chief of Navy Personnel, Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson in NAVADMIN 054/10.
Suicide can be prevented, however, and the Navy’s suicide prevention efforts have begun to make a difference, according to Lt. Cmdr. Bonnie Chavez, director of the Navy’s Behavioral Health Program.
“Our most effective suicide prevention ultimately occurs at the local level -- person to person. Awareness, skills and resources at the deckplates save lives,” said Chavez. “Any one of us can have an opportunity to save a life.”
According to Chavez suicide is the result of a complex combination of factors that lead an individual to experience pain and suffering.
“They feel ineffective and start to think they don't belong or that they have become a burden to others. One-on-one communication and support is critical if we are to recognize a problem. We know that early intervention works,” said Chavez.
Chavez reminds Sailors and families to remember the acronym and ACT if they suspect a person may be feeling suicidal.
“Ask if person is suicidal. Care by listening and offering hope. Treat – stay with the person and get them to professional help,” said Chavez.
According to the 2009 Behavioral Health Quick Poll many Sailors expect negative career consequences for getting help for stress reactions or suicidal ideas and expect to lose a security clearance, but Chavez points out that family, and deployment-related counseling does not need to be mentioned on security clearance forms.
“Self referral for mental health is widely seen by professionals conducting clearance evaluations as demonstrating good judgment and reliability. Most often, only when failure to get assistance leads to substance abuse, disciplinary infractions or substantial debt are clearances in jeopardy,” said Chavez.
Navy officials are examining ways to eliminate other potential barriers to using needed psychological services and removing obstacles that hinder successful reintegration of Sailors in to the command, according to the NAVADMIN.
Education and training of Sailors, leaders and family members is a focus for 2010. According to the message, the Navy’s Operational Stress Control program is becoming the cornerstone for all Behavior Health and Readiness efforts, including suicide prevention. Efforts this year will focus on improving family outreach, optimizing the interface between command leadership and medical treatment providers, and continuing to build a network of trained suicide prevention coordinators. The training will highlight the tools and techniques needed to build psychologically resilient Sailors, which can help them, their families, and commands successfully navigate through stressful times.
“Reaching out to families is important, said Chavez, because family members are often the first to notice a concern. We must educate our families on warning signs, risk factors for suicide and how to access helpful resources. We also need to develop the relationships and a connection between commands and families before a crisis occurs,” said Chavez.
For more information read NAVADMIN 054/10 or visit www.suicide.navy.mil