Annual Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Outreach Recognition

41091343_1937693046269634_8563406773740896256_nThe Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) is  conducting its annual DoD Suicide Prevention Month Outreach Recognition to honor one exemplary installation from each of the services and one from either the Reserves or National Guard. This recognition honors the installations with the most dedicated and influential efforts commemorating Suicide Prevention Month. Recipients will be recognized for their efforts to be there for service members, their families and DoD civilians by educating, engaging and building community support for suicide prevention.

For recognition consideration, events must occur during the month of September 2019, though they may be sustained beyond that time to promote ongoing engagement. All Navy events must adhere to the safe messaging guidelines included in the FY-20 1 Small ACT Toolkit to ensure that they do not unintentionally place vulnerable individuals at increased risk and convey a positive narrative. Additionally, Navy events should promote one or more of the following “Every Sailor, Every Day” campaign concepts:

  • Educate on suicide risk factors, protective factors and warning signs;
  • Empower proactive self-care, early intervention and seeking help;
  • Promote open, positive and ongoing dialogue about stress, psychological health and suicide; and
  • Demonstrate practical applications of the “1 Small ACT,” “BeThere” and/or “Small Steps Save Lives” messages.

All nominations must be submitted via email to Navy Suicide Prevention Program at suicideprevention@navy.mil no later than November 1, 2019. To nominate your local efforts:

  • Provide no more than a 750-word narrative, using 12-point Times New Roman describing your installation’s event(s) and/or activity/activities throughout September 2019. Including pictures, fliers and other supporting material is encouraged.
  • Include SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely) measures of effectiveness of each activity or event (i.e., qualitative or quantitative data demonstrating how the activity or event affected the community such as number of participants, populations participating, or survey outcomes, etc.).
  • The email subject line should read “2019 DoD Suicide Prevention Month Outreach Recognition _ installation name”. The file naming convention should read “2019SPM _ installation name”.
  • Coordinate with your homeport or installation’s public affairs office to ensure that only one nomination is submitted per installation.

Digital Safety: Considerations for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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Advances in digital technology have fundamentally transformed the way we communicate. From messaging friends on social media platforms, to using online dating websites, to tracking our exercise with mobile apps, to answering calls via wearable devices, we can now connect with our close friends, family, loved ones and larger community faster than ever. Digital tools constantly collect information about our interactions, and those closest to us are often involved in shaping our digital interactions.

While increasing our ease of connectivity to our partners is often an advantage, many people do not understand what digital abuse is and are not able to recognize the signs of digital abuse between partners. October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as Richard McKeon, Ph.D., chief of the suicide prevention branch at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) points out: “survivors of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times, and cases of murder suicide are most likely to occur in the context of abuse.” Although physical violence is more commonly linked to domestic violence, digital platforms and software are also now leveraged as mechanisms to transmit abuse. Using abusive language and intimidating partners – whether publicly or privately online – can be just as devastating as an act of physical violence. By controlling a partner’s digital life, an abuser may find it an effective way to exercise control over someone’s physical, financial and emotional well-being.

Here are a few considerations to make digital safety a priority for yourself, your friends and your family in relationships:

Increase your awareness of the information collected by digital tools. Several mobile apps and websites automatically default to settings that track your location. Digital stalking can be made even easier with GPS, with social media platforms’ location tags often leaving a digital trail. Protect yourself and others by remaining aware of who has access to what devices, apps and accounts. Reset your passwords and contact information associated with your account on a routine basis for added security.

Recognize and understand the reach of digital tools. The Internet gives individuals a much broader platform to broadcast photos, screenshots of texts and documents that could potentially harm someone’s personal or professional life. Abusive partners can use public shaming or humiliation to distort the truth.

Take note of any abrupt changes in a friend or family member’s online behavior. If it seems like someone’s posts, comments or replies have changed in content or frequency, ask them directly about the changes you’ve observed. Their partner may be imposing limits on who they can contact and what they can post. Connect those in your community with digital and in-person resources and let them know you are there for them.

While digital abuse is common among young people who are frequently using technology at high rates, it is important to know that anyone can be a victim of digital abuse. In addition to local resources, national resources for domestic violence victim assistance and support include:

  • For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.
  • Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) which can be reached through the RAINN Hotline at 1-800-865-HOPE or through its website at http://www.rainn.org/

How (and Why) to Develop a Self-Care Plan

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Sailors know that no military operation is undertaken without significant planning. Personal duties like a permanent change of station or even trips to the store are often accompanied by detailed checklists, too. However, planning to prioritize self-care may be a new idea. We think that self-care will just “happen,” but it’s easy to let your personal needs fall to the bottom of the list. Self-care is an important part of wellness that deserves the same thoughtfulness as any other important event. Building a self-care plan can help make sure we take care of ourselves, so we can take care of the mission and of others.

What Is a Self-Care Plan?

A self-care plan is a customizable tool and preventative measure to help you identify what you value and need as part of your daily life (maintenance self-care) and the strategies you can use if you face increased stress or a crisis (emergency self-care). There is no “one-size-fits-all,” but the plan should represent a commitment to attending to your physical, psychological and emotional health in ways that are meaningful to you. An effective self-care plan helps you take the guesswork out of how to direct your energy in positive ways.

How to Create a Self-Care Plan

When you begin writing your plan, you’ll need to do a little self-reflection. Think about the ways that you currently cope with stress in your life, and whether those ways are positive or negative. A self-care plan can include abstaining from negative behaviors, like overspending or overusing alcohol, as well as developing new and more productive strategies. Think about the things in your life that bring you joy and increase your well-being. Make a list of those positive activities. Come up with a reasonable amount of time per week that you’re able to dedicate to those activities, and then block that time off on your calendar in advance. Some activities may be easy to incorporate into your daily routine, like a walk with your dog. Some activities may fit in better on a weekly or monthly basis, like a manicure or massage. Find what’s right for you, and then make it a priority.

What to Consider

Customize your self-care plan to meet your needs, but also make sure you aren’t neglecting any part of your total wellness. A good self-care plan should include practices or activities related to a variety of health areas.

Physical – These are all the things that involve taking care of your physical health, like nutrition, preventive medical care and good sleep practices. Learn how to get a great workout without equipment in this blog post about minimalist fitness workouts designed for Sailors. Yoga offers a complete mind and body workout, and this article can help you start a yoga practice. If you turn to sugary foods as a coping mechanism, you can learn about the effects of sugar on your body and mind here. For tips on creating a sleep-friendly environment to recharge your resilience, check out this article.

Psychological – There are many ways to nurture your mind and mental health. This article from the Real Warriors Campaign describes stress reduction techniques that can help, especially for people in high-stress occupations. Information on specific breathing, meditation and relaxation tips can also be found here. Achieving work-life balance is an important part of psychological wellness, and this article offers help on finding that balance in the Navy.

Social/Relationships – Time alone is important, but relationships are one of the principles of resilience. Whether it’s relationships with friends, a spouse or other family members, or professional relationships and community ties, connectedness can have significant positive effects on a person’s well-being. Learn techniques on how to strengthen connections, whether in person or at a distance, here.

Self-care can be challenging to adopt or maintain, often due to demands on time, energy or putting the needs of others before your own. As you implement your plan, keep track of how you’re doing. Tracking your progress over time will help you understand and recognize your habits, successes and any difficulties you may not have originally anticipated. Remember, you can revise your plan as needed! Being there for others starts with being there for yourself. 1 Small ACT can make a difference and help you be there for every Sailor, every day.

The Gratitude Board: 1 Small ACT for Cultivating Active Gratitude

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It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day to-do lists, calendars and routines, or to be lasered in on achieving goals, setting new ones and looking forward to the future. While these are all important aspects of maintaining psychological health, it’s also beneficial to push pause and be present in the moment. Taking time to appreciate the people in your life, the things you have and what you have accomplished – practicing gratitude – is an important step in maintaining psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing.

What Is Gratitude and Why Is It Important?

According to Harvard Health, gratitude is “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” When people actively practice gratitude, they are deliberately and consciously acknowledging the goodness in their lives, recognizing the source of that goodness and connecting positively to something outside themselves as individuals. Gratitude has a wide array of benefits, including greater optimism and happiness, increased positive emotions and alertness, improved physical and behavioral health, increased resilience and healthier relationships. Gratitude also serves as a protective factor against toxic, negative emotions such as envy, resentment and regret. It’s important to note that practicing gratitude does not mean that our lives are perfect or that we don’t face challenges, adversity and barriers.  Rather, it means that when people take stock and assess their lives holistically, they can embrace goodness more intentionally and enjoy the far-reaching impacts of an optimistic outlook.

So how can we cultivate more gratitude? One simple way is to create a gratitude board.

Make Your Own Appreciation Station

A gratitude board is a great way to reinforce positive emotions because it is a visible, physical reminder that can be seen whenever you come and go from your spaces. To get started, grab some kind of board – like a marker, cork or chalk board – sticky notes, scrap paper or notecards; some writing instruments; and something to hold your items to the board. Take some time to reflect on the things, people, experiences and/or events you are grateful for, and write them down. Be as creative as you want, and feel free to invite friends, family members, shipmates or anyone you share common space with to join in. If it’s a group board, see what others are grateful for; their posts might spark more ideas about gratitude and serve as personal inspiration.

One Week Check-In

After a week of constructing your gratitude board, check in to see how you (and your group if you are using that approach) have accumulated positive reflections, ideas, relationships, accomplishments and generosity. Use your one-week inputs as inspiration for maintaining and operating your board throughout the coming months and year.

Gratitude as Self-Care

Investing in our psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly, and we don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving or the holidays to express what we’re thankful for. Devoting a moment each day to reflect on what we’re grateful for is 1 Small ACT of self-care we can do to take care of our body and mind so that we can be there for others and make positive contributions to our personal and professional relationships. Remember, Every Sailor, Every Day starts with you.

For additional self-care tips for Sailors and families, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Summer Safety: Suicide Prevention During the 101 Critical Days of Summer

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The 101 Critical Days of Summer are always a time to focus on safety – responsible drinking, boating safety, swimming safety and more – but suicide prevention efforts aren’t always included as a focus. The causes of suicide are complex, and while seasonality and weather are not significant risk factors, researchers have observed some associations between warm weather and suicide rates. Additionally, the stresses of military moves and accompanying separation from known support networks can be very difficult during this time of year. For these reasons and more, suicide prevention efforts are an important part of summer safety.

Use caution if drinking and watch out for your shipmates if they choose to drink. Alcohol abuse has been consistently associated with suicidal behavior, according to the National Institutes of Health. Consuming alcohol can lower inhibitions, increase impulsiveness and impair judgement. Alcohol abuse can also lead to social withdrawal, and all of these attributes can lead to greater suicide risk.

Understand how to reduce access to lethal means. Reducing access to lethal means of self-harm is key if a person is at risk of suicide, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Many suicide attempts happen during a short-term crisis, so reducing access to deadly medications or to firearms is important. Always store medications and firearms safely, or remove them from the area completely if you are concerned about those nearby.

Stay connected during times of change. Relationships play an invaluable role in our lives and are one of the Principles of Resilience. During the summer, when people are coming and going as a part of Navy life, it’s easy to feel disconnected. Check in on your friends who have left and reach out to new people in your community. Help create a feeling of belongingness in those around you and for yourself.

Suicide prevention is an all-hands, year-round responsibility. If you think a shipmate is having trouble navigating stress, ACT (Ask, Care, Treat):

  • Ask directly: Are you thinking of killing yourself?
  • Show that you care by listening without judgment and offering hope. Be there.
  • Help your friend connect with a support system immediately. Contact the Military Crisis Line (call 800-273-TALK and Press 1 or text 838255), escort them to the nearest chaplain, provider or leader, or call 911 if danger is imminent. Stay in contact with your friend throughout their treatment to promote a healthy recovery.

The idea that suicides occur more frequently during the holidays is a long-perpetuated myth and one that can be harmful to prevention efforts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2016 study in The Journal of Affective Disorders reviewed 29 science articles from 16 countries and found that suicide attempts were most frequent in spring and summer. Additionally, a 2016 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found positive associations between warmer temperatures and suicide in three East Asian countries, regardless of country, age and gender. More recently, a 2018 study in the International Journal of Biometeorology examined nine major U.S. cities. Researchers found that there was a tendency toward late spring/summer peaks.

The Every Sailor, Every Day campaign has fact sheets, infographics, posters and magnets educating Sailors and families on key Operational Stress Control (OSC) concepts. Visit https://go.usa.gov/xyEBp to download materials, including the Principles of Resilience graphic and Lethal Means Safety graphics, or order them free of charge from the Naval Logistics Library.