Tag Archives: alcohol

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

AdobeStock_199357678_resize

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.

Alcohol and the Mind – Mental Health Month 2019

If you’ve ever had one drink too many, you know that alcohol affects your entire body. But how does drinking affect your mental state and the health of your brain? Many factors, such as how much and how often you drink, your age and gender, and your general health, have an impact on how alcohol affects your brain. The research is clear, though. Alcohol can affect your mental health in the short and long term.

How Alcohol Works in the Brain

Alcohol works directly on the neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the messengers that send signals to control thought processes, behaviors and emotions. When you drink, you increase the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA – and that’s what causes the slurred speech and slow movements associated with alcohol. In addition, alcohol increases the amount of dopamine released in your brain. Dopamine is the “reward” chemical, and it’s responsible for the feelings of pleasure some feel when drinking. According to American Addiction Centers , drinking alcohol also decreases your brain’s pre-frontal cortex activity. The pre-frontal cortex is your brain’s decision-making area and less activity means it’s harder to think clearly.

Short-term Mental Health Risks

Some people turn to alcohol to ease social anxiety, but those same effects can be harmful. Alcohol use can lead to lowered inhibitions and poor social judgment. You may speak or act without thinking, or feel like your emotions are out of control.

Drinking alcohol can also result in insomnia. Even minimal drinking can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Sleep is a key component of a healthy mental state.

Blackouts are one of the most damaging short-term effects of alcohol use. A blackout is a short-term memory lapse. Your behavior during the blackout may be harmful to yourself or others, but you don’t know, because you can’t remember it.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), people with a history of alcohol abuse or dependence were two to three times more likely to have an anxiety episode. At least one study from the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that alcohol abuse may lead to an increased risk of depression. Researchers said that genetic factors may trigger major depression in some drinkers, and that social, financial and legal issues caused by drinking may also play a part in the connection.

Long-term Mental Health Risks

According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , heavy drinking is generally considered four or more drinks in one day or eight or more drinks per week for women, and five or more drinks in one day or 15 or more drinks per week for men. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks over two hours for women and five or more drinks over two hours for men. Heavy drinkers, especially those who drink long-term, are at risk for many health disorders. Recent research from NIAAA found that long-term heavy alcohol use resulted in pronounced brain shrinkage. The structural integrity of the white matter of the brain was significantly reduced in heavy compared to light drinkers.

Long-term alcohol overuse can lead to poor recall and the ability to form memories. An article in Scientific American recently stated “long-standing alcohol abuse can damage nerve cells and permanently impact memory and learning.”

Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention (NAAP) encourages Sailors to make responsible choices if they choose to drink, and to take an honest look at their alcohol use. You can use the Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign’s (KWYE) Pier Pressure mobile app to take an anonymous self-check of your drinking habits. If you think your drinking is impacting your work or relationships, or if you suspect you may be struggling with addiction, the Navy’s non-disciplinary self-referral process allows you to seek help and remain an active duty Sailor. Learn the facts about self-referral in this article from All Hands Magazine.

Self-Referral: Seeking Help Early is a Sign of Strength

Keep What You've Earned

The Navy’s non-disciplinary self-referral process allows you to seek help and remain an active duty Sailor. The intent of a self-referral is to provide you with a means of intervening in the progression of alcohol abuse early enough to get help before a problem becomes more advanced and difficult to resolve without risk of disciplinary action. More information, including contact info for the Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention, (NAAP) office, is available on the NAAP website at https://go.usa.gov/xEejq. Refer to OPNAVINST 5350.4D for details and official policies.

The following list answers some frequently asked questions about self-referral.

What exactly constitutes a self-referral? A self-referral is an event personally initiated by the member. A member may initiate the process by disclosing the nature and extent of their problem to one of the following personnel who is actively employed in their capacity as a qualified self-referral agent: Drug and Alcohol Programs Advisor (DAPA); Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Officer- in-Charge, or Command Master Chief (CMDCM)/ Chief of the Boat (COB); Navy Drug and Alcohol Counselor (or intern); Department of Defense medical personnel, including Licensed Independent Practitioner (LIP); Chaplain; or Fleet and Family Support Center Counselor.

When should someone consider self-referring? A member should consider self-referring if they desire counseling and treatment to address potential, suspected, or actual alcohol abuse or misuse.

What could make a self-referral invalid, in which case the member would not be shielded from disciplinary action? To be valid, the self-referral must be made only to one of the qualified self-referral agents listed above; it must be made with the intent of acquiring treatment, should treatment be recommended as a result of the screening process; and there can be no credible evidence of the member’s involvement in an alcohol-related incident (ARI).

What do we mean by “non-disciplinary?” This means that a member may not be disciplined merely for self-referring and participating in the resulting process of screening and treatment, if recommended. It doesn’t mean that a member is necessarily shielded from the possible administrative consequences of treatment failure or the administrative or disciplinary consequences of refusing to participate in treatment recommended by the post-referral screening process.

Does making a self-referral count as an ARI? No.

Will other people know if I self-refer? Yes. The member’s chain of command, and others on a need-to-know basis, will be informed.

Will a self-referral mean that the Navy looks at other parts of my life/job performance? Alcohol use issues are complex, and evaluation and treatment require a holistic view. Relevant information on the member’s work and personal life may be required as part of the screening and treatment processes.

Can I re-enlist if I’ve self-referred? Yes.

What are the levels of alcohol treatment? If treatment is recommended, the command will coordinate with the appropriate SARP facility based on availability, locality, and type of treatment needed. Levels of treatment are: Level 0.5 Early Intervention/ Education Program; Level I Outpatient Treatment; Level II Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization (lOP) and Level III Inpatient Treatment.

Will I lose my security clearance for self-referring? No. Your security clearance may be jeopardized if your screening recommends treatment and you subsequently refuse that treatment.

Responsible Alcohol Use for the Non-Drinker: Pledge to Give the Gift of a DD

Navy KWYE_2018_DUI_504x504_v1_Got a DD-

December is Impaired Driving Prevention Month. So, what does that mean for non-drinkers?

A number of Sailors choose not to drink alcohol. Their reasons are as diverse as our Navy family. If you’re among the “zero-proof” cocktail crowd this holiday season, you can still play a big part in promoting responsible choices for those who do choose to drink. Pledge to “Give the Gift of a Designated Driver” (DD) and to help others make it home (and back) safely this year.

The Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention (NAAP) office’s Keep What You’ve Earned (KWYE) Campaign recently launched this quick and anonymous online pledge encouraging Sailors, their friends and family to serve as designated drivers this holiday season. To take the pledge, visit https://go.usa.gov/xnj86 and then head to the KWYE webpage to print a gift card that can be given to a friend or loved one to be used in exchange for a safe ride home. The pledge runs through Dec. 31.

These cards are the perfect one-size-fits-all gift for those who choose to drink. Show them how much you care by committing your time – No long lines or gift wrap needed!

Follow these tips to make the experience a win for you and your friends.

  1. Get the keys before heading out.
  2. Make a plan (where you’ll meet, where you’re going and when you’ll call it a night).
  3. Make sure your phone is on, charged and set to vibrate and ring.
  4. Turn up, but turn down the alcohol – no exceptions!

To help illustrate what’s on the line should Sailors choose to drink and drive, KWYE has developed three short videos exploring the financial impacts of a Driving Under the Influence conviction, ranging from impacts to military retirement benefits, to loss of rank and subsequent loss of pay, and other short term impacts. You can encourage Sailors to find a safe ride home this month and all year long by sharing these videos on your social media channels, which can be found on https://www.youtube.com/user/NavyNADAP.

If your friends need additional support setting healthy limits around their alcohol intake, this Health.mil article offers signs of problematic drinking, practical tips and helpful resources, including KWYE campaign’s Pier Pressure mobile application. View the article at https://health.mil/News/Articles/2018/11/09/To-drink-or-not-to-drink.

For more information and materials to help Sailors keep what they’ve earned, check out the campaign’s website.

“I have a clearance…and I stepped up and said ‘hey, I need some help’”

I have a clearance and I got help blog image

Submitted by Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention’s Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign and Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s Every Sailor, Every Day Campaign.

Throughout her 15-year career in the Navy, Intelligence Specialist Chief Amber Nuanez has been a constant source of support and mentorship to her Sailors. Above all of her personal accomplishments, she’s most proud to have contributed to others’ growth and development. Of course, her passion and dedication to her career has not come without sacrifice; particularly when it comes to being able to spend time with her young children despite long hours and deployments.  In the Keep What You’ve Earned (KWYE) campaign’s newest testimonial public service announcement (PSA), Nuanez admits feeling like she’s struggled with work and family life balance. But it’s her commitment to her children and her Sailors that led her to find the courage to seek help when she realized she was struggling with her mental and behavioral health.

Seeking Help vs. Career Concerns

Nuanez was concerned about how reaching out for help could affect her security clearance and ability to maintain her career in the intelligence community. Yet, she pressed forward recognizing that she was the one that now needed support and that help was always available. Nuanez not only sought help for mental health concerns, but a few months later self-referred for alcohol misuse treatment. She got the support she needed, enabling her to be an even stronger source of inspiration for her kids and Sailors. She now serves as both a Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) and Suicide Prevention Coordinator (SPC) for her current command.

Addressing mental and behavioral health needs is essential to maintaining personal and mission readiness, and your ability to be there for others. However, concerns about career implications may lead to apprehension about seeking help. You may wonder “How will leadership view me afterwards? What about my job or security clearance?” The truth is that there are DoD-level policy protections in place to help prevent negative career impacts for those who seek proactive help. In fact, less than one percent of security clearance denials or revocations involve mental health concerns or behavioral health support. Whether through your local Fleet & Family Support Center, Navy chaplain or medical provider, Military OneSource non-medical counseling or the many other resources available to Sailors and families, seeking help is a sign of strength. Further, it’s an indicator of the good judgment and reliability needed to maintain a security clearance.

Self-Referring for Alcohol Use

The process of proactively seeking help for alcohol use issues in the Navy is called self-referral. If done before an alcohol incident (AI) has occurred, self-referring for alcohol use treatment through your command does not result in disciplinary action. Initiating a self-referral means that a Sailor wants to receive counseling or treatment for alcohol abuse. “That treatment was really awesome because they focus on the ‘why’ of your drinking habits,” Nuanez shared. “If I hadn’t have had the [self-referral] program and SARP [Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program], I don’t know where I’d be.”

To initiate a self-referral and begin your journey to recovery, speak with a qualified agent, such as:

  • Command DAPA
  • Commanding officer, executive officer, officer in charge, command master chief or chief of the boat
  • Navy drug and alcohol counselor or intern
  • DOD medical provider (including a Licensed Independent Provider)
  • Chaplain
  • Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) counselor

1 Small ACT Can Make a Difference

While fear of reaching out can be overwhelming, 1 Small ACT can make a career or life-saving difference. Seeking help is the best thing you can do for yourself, your family and your Navy career if navigating mental or behavioral health concerns. In addition to the support resources mentioned above, if you or someone you know is in immediate crisis you can reach out to the Military Crisis Line online, by phone at 1-800-273-8255 or by text at 838255.

Help encourage others to reach out for support by sharing this blog post and ISC Nuanez’s Keep What You’ve Earned campaign testimonial video, which will be available on Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention’s YouTube channel this month. For more resources to help you keep what you’ve earned, visit https://go.usa.gov/xPKzq or download the Pier Pressure mobile application from the App Store or Google Play for access to responsible drinking tools and information on Navy’s self-referral process.

Additionally, you can share the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s latest graphics and posters on seeking help and security clearances, available at https://go.usa.gov/xPKzT.