By: Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben, Chief of Navy Chaplains
Like a family, shipmates have an obligation to look out for each other, to look out for “Every Sailor, Every Day.” While September is identified as Suicide Prevention Month, every day, day in and day out, we must direct our efforts to prevent the deaths of our Sailors, Civilians and all our family members.
Often when people think about suicide, it’s because they feel isolated and alone, as if no one will listen to them. I ask each of you to break the silence and start the conversation if you notice someone going through a difficult time. By engaging with your shipmates with the simple question, “Are you doing ok?” you are giving that person permission to reach out and ask for help. You are helping that person realize they are not alone. By really listening to their response, you also remind them that people do care about them and will care if something happens to them.
But it isn’t just about other people. Frankly, all of us have heard that message loud and clear and most of us are on the lookout for people who seem to be at their wit’s end. I’m more concerned about those of you who aren’t letting anyone in on your feelings of despair, isolation, or crushing pain. Please hear this message: it should never be a matter of taking your life but taking control of your life. All of us, no matter where we are in our lives, will encounter stress that can feel incredibly overwhelming. I encourage each of you to consider your own self-care and to take the steps now to build your own resilience to help navigate the stress that will inevitably come your way. And that means things like staying connected to your family, your shipmates, and the resources available to you. Knowing that we are not facing life’s challenges alone can help reduce stress levels before they ever develop into a personal crisis. But when it does, it means having the courage to say something to someone – to break YOUR silence – when you’ve lost control of your life and you need help.
As chaplains, we are committed to being where it matters, when it matters, with what matters. We help people reconnect with their sources for hope. That’s really our whole reason for being. We are here to make sure you have some place safe to go where you have absolute confidentiality to share your concerns or fears when things seem out of your control. You talk, and we’ll listen. If you just want to sit and not say anything, we’ll remain by your side. Chaplains will help you tap into your spiritual foundation or whatever keeps you grounded. And when you’re ready, chaplains will help you connect with the right resources and get you the help you need. Remember, our commitment is to you.
We are a team, the Navy Team. Together, we can make a difference in someone’s life – your life.
Contact your command chaplain to learn more about your right to absolute confidentiality with a chaplain. Don’t know who your nearest chaplain is? Call 1-855-NAVY-311 to be connected with a chaplain.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is just a call or click away. Call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (option 1) or visit www.veteranscrisisline.net.
For more information on the Navy’s ongoing efforts for suicide prevention, visit www.suicide.navy.mil.