Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month

Greetings Shipmates,

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.  As you well know, this is a topic which affects all of us, and unfortunately, is an event that happens too often in our Armed Forces and in our communities. Even one loss of life is too many, and today I want to talk to you about what we can do, as leaders, peers, Sailors and friends, to prevent this tragedy from happening. 

We are engaged in an active campaign to prevent our Sailors from taking their own lives, and I do believe that our communications and training on suicide prevention and suicide awareness is having an effect.  Some of you might have noticed an increase in the number of service members reporting depression, hopelessness and suicidal ideation.  Does this mean more people are having thoughts of suicide than in the past?  Or does it mean that more people are coming forward and talking about it?  I believe it is the latter.

It tells me that more people are asking questions and really looking at their Sailors, and that our Sailors are more likely to ask for help when they are experiencing emotional and psychological turmoil.  We have experienced a cultural change in how we perceive suicide, depression, overall mental health and the effects life events have on a person. 

We have not been able to pull that common thread that indicates a person’s true mental state.  There is no perfect list, or flow chart, or recipe of factors you can use to predict with certainty whether or not someone will take their own life.   
What we can do is pay attention.  We can ask questions and we can intervene and get that person help.  We need to help that person get beyond the situation, because, in most cases, the psychological state of that person is temporary.  It’s a decision made in a temporary frame of mind with permanent consequences.  But, if you can get a person past that moment, then you have given them a chance to get the help they need.   

We have the power and resources to prevent suicide, but we must all be engaged.  Know your people, know what’s going on in their lives and make sure they know that you care.  Promote the resources we have, such as our regional Psychological Health Outreach Program (PHOP) representatives, and encourage each other to speak up when you or someone else is experiencing depression, despair or thoughts of suicide.    Together we can foster a climate where people get the help they need, so they can be around to experience the opportunities of the future. 


1 comment:

  1. Sir, I think we need also need to establish education of mental health from the Entry Level. We can't simply just patch an issue that has plaque our service for century without forming a resolution to end the stigmas associated with mental health. We don't teach the Sailors about sick call after they cut a finger off, so why do we stress mental health at the time of need. Too many service members, especially those in the Reserves do not understand what is entitled to us. Then when we leave the service, we are dumped into a state system that does not understand how to treat us, and all hope goes by the way side. We need to change our policies now, in order to preserve our shipmates in the future. You can find my suggestions in the September 12th edition of Stars and Stripes. Thank your for your efforts sir!