Tag Archives: ACT

Suicide Prevention and Supervisors: The Front Line When Things Get Tough

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Navy leaders have great influence and impact on their shipmates’ sense of connectedness. Front-line supervisors in particular can make a difference because of their unique position—the close quarters and long hours that characterize much of Navy life mean lots of day-to-day contact and many opportunities to really get to know your teammates. Supervisors are also knowledgeable about significant events Sailors are experiencing, such as promotion, deployment or family status.

Most Sailors who die by suicide were experiencing multiple stressors before their deaths, including relationship issues, transitions, and career or personal setbacks. Annual case reviews consistently reveal missed opportunities to “connect the dots” when a Sailor is experiencing negative effects of stress. Active communication is important, especially if a Sailor is alone and away from his or her support networks. Supervisors are key to this effort.

The Supervisor’s Role in Suicide Prevention

Though Sailors may compartmentalize their personal stressors to stay focused on the mission, if those stressors aren’t being adequately addressed or continue to pile up, they’re likely to spill over into their work performance. Taking the time to get to know your people can better enable you to notice when something seems off.  For example, a Sailor who used to be engaged and happy at work is becoming more withdrawn, is unable to focus or is easily agitated. These can be signals that a Sailor is in crisis and are opportunities for supportive conversation and ACTion. Consider reaching out to one of their peers who knows them well, as well as their family members who are more likely to have a more complete picture of what may be troubling the Sailor so that you can connect the dots and offer appropriate support.

It’s also imperative to reach out to the Sailor one-on-one and mention that you’ve noticed that they haven’t seemed like themselves lately. Ask directly “are you thinking about killing yourself?” You can follow up with questions like “do you have a plan to kill yourself?” Show them that you Care by listening without judgement and paying close attention to any additional warning signs, like statements about not wanting to live, feeling like a burden, feeling hopeless or discussion of lethal means. Help them get to Treatment immediately and escort them to a medical professional or Navy chaplain for safety. You can also call the Military Crisis Line with them.

Be there throughout the process, follow up and offer continued support, regardless of the level of care needed to help the Sailor bounce back. Ensure that they have ample time to attend appointments for any services they may need and help them overcome logistical barriers. For Sailors who have experienced a suicide-related behavior (SRB), remember that your suicide prevention coordinator (SPC) will need to initiate a referral to the Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life (SAIL) program. SAIL provides caring contacts to Sailors in the 90 days after an SRB and keeps them connected to resources. Let the Sailor know that they’ll receive a call from a Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) SAIL Case Manager inviting them to receive these services to support their recovery. For more information on SAIL and key messages for leaders, visit https://go.usa.gov/xEE69.

Command Directed Mental Health Evaluations and Voluntary Storage of Firearms

Sometimes Sailors may be hesitant to seek treatment, even when it could be life-saving. A commander or supervisor may direct Sailors to undergo a mental health evaluation if they reasonably believe that a Sailor’s current mental health state places them at risk of hurting themselves or others. Command directed mental health evaluations are also appropriate when a Sailor has displayed marked changes in behavior or when the leader is concerned about a Sailor’s fitness for duty. Commanding Officers may consult with the nearest available mental health provider for guidance on the referral as well as necessary precautions such as escorts and removing access to lethal means.

As an added safety precaution during times of increased stress, Commanders must ask Sailors believed to be at-risk for suicide to voluntarily allow their privately-owned firearms to be stored for temporary safekeeping by the command per NAVADMIN 263/14. Leaders must work with base security and/or other local resources to proactively determine storage and safety protocol for local implementation of this DoD-wide policy. For more information, refer to DoD Instruction 6490.04.

Be There for Every Sailor, Every Day

Fostering communication and encouraging connectedness among team members are two strategies to increase protective factors against suicide that are recommended by the International Association for Suicide Prevention. Negative attitudes about mental illness can keep people from sharing their situation and reaching out for help. Lead by example and reassure your Sailors that mental health problems can happen to anyone and are treatable. Talk about mental health openly, honestly and supportively, just as you would about physical health. Encourage use of professional resources like medical providers and Navy’s Counseling Advocacy Program, as well as confidential support from a Navy chaplain or the Military Crisis Line.

Leaders should also share resources, contact information and educational materials regularly to foster a supportive command climate. Lifelink Newsletter includes articles that can be reproduced for your command’s blog or local publication, plan of the week notes and more. There are posters and other print resources available for download as well on the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s “Get Involved” webpage on http://www.suicide.navy.mil. Your support helps to reshape the negative perceptions about the impacts of seeking help on one’s career, especially when it comes to treatment from leaders and peers.

An All-Hands Responsibility

All Sailors, regardless of supervisory status, have specific responsibilities for suicide prevention which are outlined in the Navy’s latest Suicide Prevention Program Instruction, OPNAVINST 1720.4B​. In addition to the mandatory general military training (GMT) required for all Navy personnel and the specialized training for SPCs and Suicide Prevention Program Managers (SPPMs), Navy Suicide Prevention Brach also provides training resources for communities who have frequent contact with at-risk Sailors. Gatekeeper Training is available for legal defense personnel, transient personnel unit (TPU) staff, ombudsmen and medical staff. This training includes a facilitator guide, can be downloaded from www.suicide.navy.mil, and meets the Suicide Prevention GMT requirements. Additionally, the new Navigating Stress for Navy Families course provides practical tools and effective techniques to help spouses and families build resilience and navigate stress.

Resources to support locally-developed training can be found on the Navy Suicide Prevention Branch website, including facts and warning signs, informational materials, videos and statistics.

#BeThere For The Holidays

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According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, it is a commonly-held misconception that suicides increase over the holidays. This is not the case. However, the holidays are an ideal time to strengthen your connections with shipmates and loved ones – a protective factor against suicide. Whether catching up via phone, social media or at a holiday gathering, pay attention to the subtle signs that may indicate someone is having difficulty navigating stress. Those signs may include expressing feelings of hopelessness or burdensomeness, increased substance use, withdrawal from usual activities and sudden mood changes. Even if it seems like they’re joking or being casual, if something seems out of the norm trust your gut and ACT (Ask Care Treat).

ACT is Navy’s call-to-action to encourage early intervention when a Sailor is experiencing difficulty navigating stress or may be at risk for suicide. All Sailors and members of the Navy community should be able to recognize the risk factors and warning signs that indicate a potential suicidal crisis, and should feel confident in their ability to ACT:

  • Ask – Ask directly: are you thinking of killing yourself?
  • Care – Listen without judgment. Show that you care.
  • Treat – Get the Sailor immediate assistance. Escort him or her to the nearest chaplain, trusted leader or medical professional for treatment.

Annual case reviews consistently reveal missed opportunities to “connect the dots” when a Sailor is experiencing the negative effects of stress, psychological health concerns or exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior. Active communication and ongoing dialogue about stress, psychological health and suicide can motivate positive action and open the door for help.

While the holiday season may be a busy time, remember that 1 Small ACT can make a difference. In addition to knowing the signs and when to intervene, encourage Sailors to get ahead of stress by practicing self-care this season, like eating a balanced diet, making time for exercise and getting adequate sleep. Like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter for healthy holiday tips from the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

New Tools for Suicide Prevention Month and Beyond

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Navy Suicide Prevention Month is not just a 30-day blitz of suicide prevention efforts; it is the starting point for year-long conversations on how to be there for Every Sailor, Every Day. This September, the Every Sailor, Every Day (ESED) campaign will continue to lead the charge for Navy’s year-long suicide prevention efforts, promoting healthy behaviors, active engagement and open conversation through its popular 1 Small ACT message.

Over the next month, ESED will introduce new concepts and tools to enhance Sailors’ abilities to recognize risk factors, navigate stress, stay safe during high-stress times and understand the importance of seeking help. One of those new tools is the FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit that provides resources to support local suicide prevention engagement. This year’s toolkit will be available by mid-August and will be digitally distributed to suicide prevention coordinators (SPCs) and other gatekeepers who have subscribed to Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s email distribution list (available to sign up here). It will also be available to download year-round on www.suicide.navy.mil. All toolkit content aligns to the ESED campaign’s FY-19 focus areas, including various ways to engage in self-care, practice lethal means safety during times of increased stress and empower Sailors to feel comfortable seeking help without fear of judgement or impacts to their security clearance eligibility.

The FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit is a one-stop shop for messages and materials to strengthen local engagement. It contains posters, digital graphics, sharable facts, social media messages, plan of the week notes, event ideas and other materials that can be used in September and throughout the new fiscal year. As one of the most popular tools in each year’s toolkit, the new 30 Days of Small ACTs calendar features simple ways for Sailors to be there for themselves and others. It offers a practical tip each day, helping Sailors build positive coping mechanisms and self-care into their routines, such as mindfulness, journaling, and starting conversations with others. You can print and display this calendar in high-traffic areas and even repurpose daily tips as Plan of the Day notes. Or give Sailors a chance at some friendly competition by hosting a 30 Days of Small ACTs challenge that pushes them to engage in as many small ACTs as possible during the month.

The tools in this toolkit—along with popular existing Every Sailor, Every Day materials—are not only helpful resources for Suicide Prevention Month but can be used to continue dialogue and engagement throughout the year. Use the campaign’s “Sailor’s on the Street” YouTube videos as icebreakers for small group discussions on healthy stress navigation. Plan group physical fitness activities like a fun run or yoga class to help Sailors beat stress head-on. And, of course, pair these activities with useful information and resources on social media. Work with your command and/or installation public affairs office to promote Suicide Prevention Month and ongoing Every Sailor, Every Day content on social media using the #1SmallACT hashtag.

Stay connected with Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s ESED campaign throughout the year. Access resources on www.suicide.navy.mil > Every Sailor, Every Day > Get Involved, and find useful tips for navigating stress on our blog.  Follow us on social media on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to tag us in your social media posts about your local events and activities.

1 Small ACT can make a difference. Be there for Every Sailor, Every Day.

 

 

Recognizing Risk and Reaching out to a Friend on Social Media

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Recognizing risk is an essential component of suicide prevention. Human communication has changed over time and social media is now one of the most common means of interacting with friends, family and people with similar interests. Aside from enabling people to stay connected during deployments or after long distance moves, social media platforms have become channels for expressing thoughts, opinions and emotions. Sometimes, signs of suicide risk are displayed, but people may not know how to recognize them. Understanding how to spot content that may indicate risk is an important first step that can enable early intervention. Here are a few ways to identify signs that your friend is in distress on social media:

  • Joking about dying or feeling no reason to live. Naturally, any posts directly indicating a desire to die or otherwise cause self-harm are warning signs of immediate danger. But sometimes these posts may be masked by sarcasm, a casual tone or even disguised as jokes. Just because there’s an “LOL” or emoji in the post, doesn’t mean that the person is playing around. Often these statements are subtle ways of asking for help and are opportunities for others to reach out, show concern and get help.
  • Expressing hopelessness, feeling trapped or other intense emotions. Posts that discuss feeling stuck in a situation that won’t get better, or experiencing unbearable pain, guilt, shame or intense rage can be signs that someone needs help. IS PATH WARM is an acronym developed by the American Association for Suicidology for recognizing suicide warning signs. By familiarizing yourself with these signs, it may be easier to detect them in social media content.
  • Patterns or changes in the type of content posted. Posts describing destructive behaviors such as abusing substances or alcohol, driving recklessly, buying weapons, or engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors can also be signs that someone is at risk. Each year, Navy Suicide Prevention Branch conducts cross disciplinary case reviews and examines the publicly available social media posts of all Sailors who died by suicide. Many of those posts included more frequent images or discussion of excessive alcohol use in social settings and/or alone, communicating about a bad break-up, a career setback, or a strained relationship with a shipmate or supervisor leading up to the Sailor’s death. Posts about personal stressors such as social isolation, significant health issues, loss of a job or home, or deaths of loved ones were also common.

When you notice something that exhibits suicide risk in a friend or family member’s social media postings, ACT:

  • Reach out and ask direct questions, such as “are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • Show that you care by listening without judgment and offering hope. Be there.
  • Help your friend connect with a support system immediately. Notify the social media platform’s safety team (see below). Encourage your friend to contact the Military Crisis Line (call 800-273-TALK and Press 1 or text 838255), reach out to a chaplain or call 911 if you know the person’s location. Stay in contact with your friend throughout their treatment to promote a healthy recovery.

The top social media platforms have safety teams that enable concerned users to report content that indicates potential risk of suicide or self-harm, and may even provide the concerned user with additional tools to communicate with the person. Each platform has different response times and resources. To learn more about social media safety teams, visit the following pages:

Many people do not know how to approach discussions about suicide or they feel that it can be too sad of an issue to talk about. In reality, constructive conversations about suicide prevention as well as general psychological health and wellness are among the most helpful ways to break down barriers. When having conversations about suicide prevention, always:

  • Convey a positive and hopeful narrative;
  • Emphasize the importance of seeking help from qualified counselors or mental health professionals; and
  • Avoid using terms like “commit suicide” that can be perceived as judgmental by those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or have lost others to suicide.

If you are not sure how to talk about suicide or what words to use, the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s new 1 Small ACT Toolkit provides helpful tips. Additionally, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Framework for Successful Messaging and Blogging On Suicide provide additional tips on how to talk about suicide safely. This year, the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign has partnered with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s #BeThe1To campaign to promote five action steps for talking to someone who may be suicidal. Learn more about how these evidence-based five steps can help by visiting http://www.bethe1to.com/bethe1to-steps-evidence/. You can also promote the five steps using Every Sailor, Every Day’s customized graphics, available here: http://www.bethe1to.com/join/.

3 Ways to Take ACTion this Suicide Prevention Month

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Suicide Prevention Month is an opportunity to reenergize the conversation and set a positive tone for the upcoming fiscal year. Here are three meaningful ways to build community, strengthen protective factors and demonstrate your command’s commitment to suicide prevention:

Connect with your shipmates. Use this month to find everyday ways to make a difference to others. Bringing a shipmate a cup of coffee or sharing a meal together may seem small, but they can have a huge impact when someone is feeling disconnected. These are also opportunities to check in on your shipmate and offer a listening ear. Pay attention to cues that may be warning signs of a crisis, like indicating that they feel like they’re trapped by their current circumstances; are more agitated, angry or anxious than usual; are drinking more alcohol than usual, etc. If you hear these or other concerns, ACT (Ask, Care, Treat). Start by asking if they’re thinking about killing themselves. Listen closely and let your shipmate know you care about their well-being and are concerned for their safety. Get your shipmate to someone who can help: a Navy chaplain, provider or call the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-TALK, press 1). Don’t leave your shipmate alone and remind them that you will be there to support them throughout their recovery process. Check out BeThe1To.com for additional tips to help someone in crisis.

Get Moving, Together. Exercise strengthens our physical and psychological health, and can boost connection with others; protective factors against suicide. Organize a 5K walk or run aboard your ship or installation in support of suicide prevention and Total Sailor Fitness. Include stations along the route to educate and motivate participants, like a trivia table staffed by the command SPC, health promotion coordinator, drug and alcohol program adviser (DAPA) or other personnel. Use the information in the 1 Small ACT Toolkit to develop questions related to self-care, stress zones, suicide risk and protective factors, and offer incentives to those who participate. You can also set up a Small ACT Selfie station stocked with printed signs and markers. Snap a photo of participants holding their completed signs and email them to navysuicideprevention@gmail.com for inclusion in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery. Following the event, collect the signs and post them throughout high-traffic areas in your command to serve as reminders of the simple ways to be there for others and support your own psychological health.

Share Stories of Hope and Recovery. We are all influencing the conversation about stress and suicide and have the power to reshape negative perceptions. Less than one percent of security clearances are revoked or denied because of psychological health reasons. Real-life stories of those who have sought help for psychological health concerns and have gone on to live healthy and productive lives can be powerful reminders that help works. Make the Connection offers testimonial videos featuring service members and veterans that you can share on social media or play during a small group discussion, such as this veteran describing how he got through tough times with support from friends and family. You can also view and share the story of PRC Jeromy Kelsey (Ret.) from the NavStress YouTube page. Be sure to brush up on how to safely communicate about suicide by checking out the tips in the 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

Every Sailor, Every Day starts with US. For additional ways to make a difference and lead by example, download the 30 Days of Small ACTs calendar and share it with your shipmates.