New Resource! Commanding Officer’s Suicide Prevention Program Handbook

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Navy Suicide Prevention is committed to providing the fleet with practical tools to proactively address and minimize suicide risk factors, strengthen protective factors and be ready to respond in the event of a crisis. Leaders play a critical role in helping to fulfill this commitment by connecting with their people, building a sense of community and breaking down the barriers that may prevent early intervention and support. These are key ingredients for a comprehensive command Suicide Prevention Program and ultimately encompass the true meaning of being there for Every Sailor, Every Day.

To support these efforts, Navy Suicide Prevention has developed the Commanding Officer’s Suicide Prevention Program Handbook. This downloadable resource is organized into six key sections—Establish a Foundation, Foster a Supportive Environment, Build Skills, Be Prepared, Assess & Intervene and Reporting & Postvention—guiding commanding officers (COs) through the essential elements of local Suicide Prevention Program development and sustainment.

While the handbook is designed for COs, it was developed with suicide prevention coordinators (SPCs) in mind. SPCs are integral to the success of any local Suicide Prevention Program by serving as their CO’s program managers. The Establish a Foundation section outlines responsibilities for commanding officers and suicide prevention coordinators, providing a detailed checklist for maintaining an engaging and comprehensive local program that supports psychological and emotional well-being. Amplifying information for items in this checklist, such as guidance for developing a crisis response plan, can be located throughout the handbook.

Prevention doesn’t begin during the heat of a crisis—it starts with everyday actions to promote health, connectedness and readiness. The Commanding Officer’s Suicide Prevention Program Handbook provides practical tips to help COs and SPCs integrate Operational Stress Control and Total Sailor Fitness into their programs. This multi-faceted approach can better equip Sailors with the skills and knowledge they need to adopt ongoing healthy behaviors and prevent actions that may put them at risk for suicide or other destructive behaviors. Training is also an essential component of local efforts to build skills, at both the individual and unit levels. To that end, required training, additional educational resources and communications campaigns are detailed in the handbook to familiarize COs and SPCs with the many tools available to foster community and preparedness.

With recent changes to procedures for completing the Dept. of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER) following a suspected suicide, the Commanding Officer’s Suicide Prevention Program Handbook will help familiarize COs and SPCs with new requirements. The Reporting & Postvention section describes these changes—including timelines, roles and responsibilities and additional resources—to foster a multidisciplinary team approach to data collection and quality assurance.

From evidence-based prevention and intervention tools, to reintegration tips following psychological health treatment and postvention resources, the Commanding Officer’s Suicide Prevention Program Handbook provides answers to many frequently asked questions that arise in day-to-day program execution.  While it’s intended for COs and SPCs, it contains useful information for any Sailor.

The handbook is available for download on the Navy Suicide Prevention website and on Navy Suicide Prevention’s Issuu page for optimized desktop viewing and mobile access. SPCs should ensure that a printed copy of the handbook is kept in an easily accessible place at their command and stored electronically for quick reference.

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