November 23rd, 2006 08:05 EST
Navy Focuses on Suicide Prevention, Awareness
The Navy is focusing its efforts to educate its Sailors about programs available to them during Suicide Prevention Month.
During November, Fleet and Family Support Centers (FFSC) worldwide are educating service members about the risk and protective factors to help Sailors identify warning signs in their shipmates or trouble within themselves.
“Knowing the warning signs that someone is thinking about committing suicide will save a shipmate’s life,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SW/AW) Joe R. Campa Jr. “If you’re a leader – and specifically for the chiefs – you must know your people well enough so that you can tell if they start to change. Recognizing the signs of suicidal thoughts can help prevent future tragedies.”
According to the Department of the Navy Suicide Incident Report, suicide is still among the top three causes of death in the Navy.
“Compared to homicides, we’re killing ourselves more than other people are killing us,” said Dr. G. Bruce Schumacher, FFSC Clinical Life Skills educator in San Diego.
The first step in preventing suicide is to identify and understand the risk factors. Risk factors are anything that could increase the possibility that a person will harm themselves, such as alcohol or substance abuse, a history of depression or mental disorders, or the loss of a relationship.
FFSC offers annual General Military Training about suicide prevention, as well as Life Skills classes, that help treat and deal with the symptoms of such issues.
“Sailors cannot be afraid to use the wealth of resources that the Navy provides,” said Campa. “These resources are there to help you and all of our shipmates through times of crisis. The Fleet and Family Support Center has a staff that is highly trained to help anyone, and they care about what you are going through and they will help you if you go to them.”
For many reasons, such as pride, shame or embarrassment, people don’t seek or use the resources available to them.
“There is nothing wrong with asking for help,” said Schumacher. "Nobody is born with all of the resources within to handle every situation in life. Somewhere along the line, you’re going to have to ask for help, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
Suicide can be prevented. The Journal of the American Medical Association and other affiliations concur that all warning signs of suicide, such as change in appetite, weight or sleeping patterns, diminished ability to think or concentrate, are magnified when a person with suicidal thoughts is under high stress or pressure, making warning signs that much more recognizable.
While general military training on suicide prevention helps Sailors to know the signs of a person who is considering committing suicide, Campa said it’s really going to take to take everyone, such as chiefs and senior petty officers, to be out on the deck plates, knowing what is going on with their people on a daily basis.
“You can’t recognize that someone is suicidal if you don’t know what their normal routine is,” said Campa. “We can prevent suicides when we take the time to learn our people.”