Makin Island Leaders Conduct safeTALK Suicide Awareness and Prevention Training 
 Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Michael E. Wagoner, USS Makin Island Public Affairs  
SAN DIEGO - USS Makin Island (LHD 8) Command Chaplain's office conducted a safeTALK suicide awareness and prevention course for Officers and chief petty officers assigned to amphibious assault ship at the Naval Base San Diego chapel complex, Sept. 17-19.

The three-hour training was held over a three-day period, offering various days in which senior leadership could work around their schedules to attend.

The course, facilitated by Makin Island Cmdr. Roy Hoffman, command chaplain, and Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Baldwin, senior medical officer, highlighted various ways in which senior leadership could identify signs that Sailors may need help.

Hoffman urged leadership to build trust, and if necessary, to act as the first responder, pay attention and keep their eyes open and listen.

"The one who notices someone needs help, delivers the first of that help, which is listening, and gets them to someone who can take them farther. To deal with someone who is a risk to their own life and eventually solve any problems that may have gotten them there in the first place," said Hoffman. "So it's about saving lives. It's about keeping each other alive and looking out for shipmates."

Role-based scenarios were also used during the training as another means to develop subject-matter familiarity and build confidence when seeking to aid others.

"I thought the training was effective because the open discussion forum allowed for personal experiences within our own leadership," said Senior Chief Personnel Specialist (SW/FMF) Jesus "Dan" Ortega, Makin Island personnel officer. "Nothing drives the point home like honest and true personal experiences."

The "TALK" in safeTALK also acts as an acronym for Tell; tell people you trust about your thoughts, feelings and struggles including thoughts you may have about self-harm or suicide. Ask; ask a person bereaved by a suicide about support they need and whether they have thoughts of suicide themselves. Listen; listen to the stories of the suicide bereaved-hear the pain, attend to the distress, support the search for meaning in the loss. KeepSafe; keepsafe from suicide while creating a safe place for people to share their sorrow and struggles and experience healing support.

"It's important for all levels of leadership to understand the severity and negative impact that suicide causes within our Navy ranks," said Ortega. "Accepting its existence within our organization will make us more vigilant and alert with recognizing the signs of suicide, thus allowing us the opportunity to place the preventative measures needed to take care of our most valuable asset, our Sailors."

Hoffman shared that last year was the Navy's worst year for suicide since it started to be tracked and documented.

"I hate even using the word "statistics" because we're talking about shipmates," continued Hoffman. "These are Sailors, these are human beings who reached a place, a point in their life where the only way they could see forward was the way out."

According to Hoffman, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 (ESG 3) conducted a suicide prevention roundtable last spring and selected the safeTALK program as a way to develop suicide awareness among senior leadership and help lead the way in suicide prevention. The goal of ESG 3 is to make the entire strike group suicide-free and to provide leadership with additional tools to support Sailors.

Makin Island, the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system, is currently undergoing a phased maintenance availability (PMA) at Naval Base San Diego. During this thirteen month PMA period, Makin Island will receive numerous equipment upgrades, modernization, and general repairs. The PMA period will also help to ensure the ship will reach the full service life of at least 40 years.

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