Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Taking Care of Our Own

Greetings Shipmates,

As our Navy Reserve Sailors take the opportunity to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends, I’d like to drop anchor on the more somber subject of suicide in our armed forces.  Suicide does not just impact Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines coping with combat deployments but the entire force.  The holiday season is not exempt either.  It hits a personal note with me. 

My college roommate committed suicide on our winter break from college.  To this day I still wonder what more I could have done to interrupt that terrible trajectory he was on which ended with his taking his own life … perhaps a phone call during the break just to talk, or a visit to his house as he lived nearby.  Talking with his parents, I found they were as distraught as I was trying to make sense of this terrible and needless loss of life.     

As I look at the details surrounding the eight suicides of Navy Reserve Sailors this calendar year I’ve tried to look for common trends for life experiences which might give us something to target to prevent further suicides and attempted suicides.  There is no easy answer.  Yes, most of these Sailors were under 30 and E-5 and below, but that was the only commonality. Some had mobilized, others not.  Some were married, some divorced, some single. Unfortunately, in many cases, we will never know what really went through that person’s mind or what combination of events triggered their decision to end their life.

So what do we do to prevent this loss of life?  First, never let the Sailor get to a point where suicide is contemplated.  Try to identify stressed Sailors early and take action to get them help.  The Navy has made an enormous amount of resources available to individuals suffering from stressors, whether they are financial, relationship or of some other nature.  There is a way to get yourself or your Sailors the help they need to ease some of that stress or burden. 

Second, stand firm that there is always another option.  No matter how badly or hopeless a person feels, suicide is not the answer.  If you know your Sailors, then you know when something is not right.  If you suspect someone you know is thinking of hurting themselves, get help.  Don’t be afraid to act.  You don’t always know how many “other” signs have been conveyed to someone else and we must assume that every “sign” is the last sign.

Let’s make this year, 2013, a better year for our Sailors and our families.  Let’s focus on our troops and ourselves and keep each other alive.  Reach out, get help, intervene and speak up.  We are here to help and we do care.

I wish you all the best of Holidays and a very Happy New Year.  See you all in 2013!


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