September is Navy Suicide Prevention Month. The 21st Century Sailor Office’s Suicide Prevention Branch, OPNAV N171, has the resources you need to get ACTively involved in supporting yourself and others this month and throughout the year. 1 Small ACT will remain the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s primary message, encouraging simple actions that can make differences in others’ lives while leveraging relationships between peers and community members.
Every Sailor, Every Day doesn’t just apply to those in uniform. Research indicates that immediate family members are more likely to notice behavioral changes and stress reactions in Sailors, including those that may be less obvious to peers and leaders. No matter how minor the stress reaction may seem, ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) and start the conversation with your Sailor early to open the door for proactive intervention and support. 1 Small ACT—being there to listen, encouraging use of professional resources, and promoting health and safety at home—can lead to one big step in the right direction.
One of the many reasons service members may not seek help for mental health concerns is fear that doing so will jeopardize their clearance eligibility and careers. You can help spread the truth. Emphasize that less than one percent of security clearance denials and revocations involve psychological health concerns. In fact, seeking help to promote personal wellness and recovery may favorably impact a person’s security clearance eligibility. Remember, counseling and treatment for adjustments related to military service in a combat environment, marital or family concerns (unrelated to violence committed by the service member), grief, and sexual assault victimization do not need to be reported when answering Question 21 on the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF 86). Seeking help is a sign of strength and help exists in many forms, including Fleet and Family Support Centers, the Military Crisis Line, Military One Source and Navy chaplains. Navy chaplains offer 100% confidential support and cannot be compelled by the command, medical professionals or others to disclose what a service member or family member shares in confidence.
During day-to-day conversation, make stress and psychological health an active part of your family’s dialogue. When possible, enjoy a meal together as a family without distraction. Mealtime is an opportunity to bond and engage with loved ones by sharing experiences, offering support and improving communication. Research indicates that sharing meals as a family benefits emotional health and connectedness, and is linked with decreased risk-taking and destructive behavior. Another way to promote health and safety at home is to ensure that privately-owned firearms are stored unloaded, in a locked safe or cabinet and secured with a gunlock. These simple steps can not only help prevent injury among children in the household, but are proven ways to prevent suicide when loved ones are experiencing stress and psychological health concerns, placing them at increased risk.
While suicide prevention is an ongoing effort, this month’s observance is the perfect time to encourage your family to take care of themselves and each other during calm and rough seas. You can set an example by participating in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery on our Navy Operational Stress Control Page (www.facebook.com/navstress). Download the new “Small ACT Selfie” sign from www.suicide.navy.mil, personalize it with an example of a small act that you and/or your family can take to make a difference, snap a photo with you and/or your family holding the sign, and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for uploading in the gallery. Like us on Facebook to share your photo—and all of our resources—with your friends and family.
1 Small ACT can save a life. It starts with you.