Tag Archives: Sailors

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

IWTC Virginia Beach Hosts Inaugural Hampton Roads Area Intelligence Symposium

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  For example, a Sailor who used to be engaged and happy at work is becoming more withdrawn, is unable to focus or is easily agitated.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.

Upcoming Webinar: “From Awareness to Action: Lessons Learned from Navy’s Annual Cross Disciplinary Case Reviews”

PEW Sept2017 Webinar_v2

Recognizing the factors that may increase suicide risk—such as barriers to seeking help, experiencing multiple or worsening stressors, declining self-care, rage and easy access to lethal means—is an important step toward taking actions that can save lives. Each year, Navy Suicide Prevention Branch (OPNAV N171) works with experts from across the Department of Defense to take a deep dive into individual Navy suicides that occurred two years prior, examining all available information, reports and records. These Cross Disciplinary Case Reviews enable experts to piece together a clearer picture of the circumstances surrounding each Sailor’s death and produce recommendations to close gaps, strengthen current efforts and shape future initiatives.

In observance of Suicide Prevention Month, OPNAV N171 and Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center’s (NMCPHC) Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) Department will co-host a webinar, “From Awareness to Action: Lessons Learned from Navy’s Annual Cross Disciplinary Case Reviews.” Join us on September 12, 2017 from 1200-1300 EST for a discussion on what you can do prevent suicide, promote belongingness and encourage well-being year-round. Speakers, including OPNAV N171’s Clinical Psychologist, will foster an understanding of Cross Disciplinary Case Review findings and available evidence-based tools, enabling participants to:

  • Identify the leading risk factors and warning signs present in recent Navy suicides, and proactively intervene when recognizing these signs in themselves or others;
  • Take appropriate action as leaders, suicide prevention coordinators, health promotion coordinators and gatekeepers to foster command climates supportive of psychological health;
  • Incorporate new and updated resources to strengthen local suicide prevention programs and promote collaboration; and
  • Engage with 2017 Navy Suicide Prevention Month and Fiscal Year 2018 (FY-18) Every Sailor, Every Day campaign efforts.

This webinar is intended for leaders, suicide prevention coordinators, health promotion coordinators and gatekeepers who have frequent contact with at-risk Sailors (chaplains, providers, first responders, legal staff, etc.).

Register by day, date at https://survey.max.gov/933674. You must have a Common Access Card (CAC) to register for and attend this webinar. For more information, visit the HPW Webinars web page.

Navy Suicide Prevention Month is right around the corner! This September and throughout FY-18, OPNAV N171’s Every Sailor, Every Day campaign will be focusing on ways to help you identify risk factors, take action and practice everyday ways to be there for yourself and others, based on the 1 Small ACT message. For materials and resources to jumpstart local efforts at your command, visit www.suicide.navy.mil > Every Sailor, Every Day > Get Involved, look out for new content here on the NavyNavStress Blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Together, we can make a difference. Be there for Every Sailor, Every Day.

Food and Mood

Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, OPNAV N17 Dietitian, reflects on the impact food choices have on one’s mood to encourage readers to “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season with family, friends and shipmates.

The holidays are here, and you deserve some much needed time off, so take George H.W. Bush is conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean.every opportunity to spend it with family and friends. Now, combine those relationships with good, conscious food choices, and you have the right ingredients to recharge your spirit!

Whether your time is spent with family, going to a potluck with friends, or sharing the holiday with your shipmates at sea, remember it’s all about balanced eating. The food we consume can affect the way we think, feel, act, and interact with those around us, so it is important to consume each of the food groups at each meal, at roughly the same time each day. In doing so, you can stabilize blood sugar levels and increase energy levels to enjoy the taste and spirit of the holiday.

Here are three ways food and mood can impact your relationships:

  1. Enjoying a meal with family and friends can enhance interpersonal relationships and boost your sense of community.
  2. Keeping a balanced and consistent food intake can positively affect your level of self-satisfaction and sense of controllability.
  3. Giving, such as contributing to a potluck and seeing others enjoy the food you provide, will increase your feelings of self-worth and meaning in your relationships.

You can also use a nutrition tracker, such as the SuperTracker on choosemyplate.gov, to help you plan and manage your nutrient intake and portion sizes. With conscious effort and consistency, you’ll find monitoring your food intake to be a simple, yet incredibly powerful strategy to help keep your mental, emotional, physical, and social well-being in check. So, enjoy good food, share and spend time with others, recharge your spirit, and remain resilient and all season long!

PCS Season is Here – Keep up with Your Shipmates

Many Sailors are preparing for upcoming Personal Change of Station (PCS) moves this summer, a transition that can bring about as much stress as it does excitement. Transitions can mean disruption to daily routines and separation from one’s social/support network (think exhausting and isolating cross-country drives for a PCS move, or transferring as a geobachelor). Even for experienced PCS pros who are eagerly awaiting the next chapter in their career and life, moves can be tough—particularly when they’re occurring during an otherwise stressful time.

While our shipmates may seem to have it all under control on the outside, it’s important to remain vigilant and pay attention to even the smallest signals that something isn’t right, particularly as they’re leaving a familiar environment and are heading to a new one. You may know bits and pieces about a shipmate’s life outside of the work center—relationship or family tension, financial issues, apprehension about career changes, etc.—but may feel as though you don’t know enough to get involved. Even though your buddy may casually dismiss his or her problems, or may not discuss them at length, reach out and offer your support and encourage him or her to speak with someone, perhaps a chaplain or trusted leader, before the situation becomes overwhelming. The likelihood of making a bad decision is higher when a person is in transition, so identifying resources early is vital to keeping your shipmate healthy and mission-ready.

If you notice anything out of the norm for your shipmate, break the silence and speak with others who know him or her well—a unit leader, roommate, family member or friend. They may have noticed the same cues or observed some that you weren’t aware of, helping to “connect the dots” and facilitate the intervention process. While you may not be able to tell if your shipmate is or isn’t in crisis on your own, by openly communicating to piece things together, you’re helping to ensure that your buddy has resources in place to help him or her build resilience and thrive in their next phase in life.

Ongoing communication is critical. Once your shipmate has checked out of your command, don’t lose track of him or her. Ensure that you have his or her accurate contact information, ask about upcoming plans, and check-in with them on their progress often. Remind your shipmate that they’re still a part of your family and that you care about their well-being. Preventing suicide starts by being there for every Sailor, every day—no matter where they are.

Our Efforts to Thrive Continue

US Navy Photo/Released

Rear Admiral Sean S. Buck
Director, 21st Century Sailor Office
U.S. Navy Photo/Released

During my nearly 30 years of service in our Navy, it’s safe to say that I’ve encountered my fair share of stress—both operational and personal. No matter the source, there was always something that I could count on to help me navigate, see things clearly, and keep an even keel; the camaraderie and cohesion I shared with my fellow Sailors.

As a leader, I’ve had to learn to “bounce back” from adversity as soon as possible in order to maintain my ability to look out for my Sailors and guide our mission. But as we’ve learned this month, the difference between bouncing back and thriving is one’s sense of community—I didn’t bounce back on my own; I had support. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about community is that you have to take care of yourself in order to help those that depend on you. Having the strength to seek help has to be something you can identify within before you can truly encourage others to do the same. Yet the courage to accept help is where it begins. Our natural inclination as service members is to give and not receive. But when we can find a way to do both—encouraging our shipmates to speak up about their stressors, and also speaking up about our own—we’ve evolved. The smallest action can have a rippling impact and we must all lead by example.

September may be coming to a close, but our efforts to help one another navigate stress, build resilience and thrive will continue. As we wrap up Suicide Prevention Month, take a moment to read about the impressive efforts that took place in our Navy over the past few weeks. I have an immense sense of pride knowing that I serve with Sailors who truly look out for and support their shipmates through calm and rough seas. Honor, courage and commitment at their finest.

  •          Joint Intelligence Center, Central Command Unit 0274 partnered with personnel from Information Dominance Corps East to contribute to a Habitat for Humanity Project benefiting the Jacksonville, FL community.
  •          Sailors assigned to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Ford (FFG 54) organized a suicide awareness run. Sailors who participated in the event ran a cumulative 32 miles, one mile for each suicide in the Navy this year.
  •         Navy Warfare Development Command held a Suicide Prevention and Awareness Run, encouraging non-runners to sponsor runners. Sponsors agreed to receive suicide prevention and stress navigation awareness resources in exchange for their endorsement, and the runner with the most sponsors received special recognition.
  •         Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic developed a wall in the break room for Sailors and leaders to post a compliment to a fellow shipmate for all to see as small tokens of appreciation.

These are just a few of the many efforts around the fleet helping us “thrive in our communities.” Thank you for your dedication to one another, and please keep up the great work.

About the Author
Rear Admiral Sean S. Buck is the Director of the 21
st Century Sailor Office, OPNAV N17. Read his full biography here.

For more examples of “Thrive in Your Community” engagement, follow @NavStress on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navstress) or visit the Suicide Prevention Month webpage on www.suicide.navy.mil.

If you, your shipmate or a loved one is having trouble navigating stress or experiencing a crisis, help is always available 24/7. Call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK and select option 1.