SEPTEMBER 18, 2014, USS MESSA VERDE, At Sea (NNS) – Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) participated in a 5 kilometer (5K) run for suicide awareness and prevention, Sept. 14.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and commands throughout the Navy are using this month as a launch pad to focus on the Navy’s ongoing suicide prevention efforts.
The event, hosted by the ship’s Coalition of Sailors against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) and its health promotions committee, was geared toward increasing awareness as well as encouraging shipmates to take care of themselves and to take care of each other.
“Suicide is something that should never happen, but it does, and one of the thoughts with prevention is just the basic premise that if we take care of ourselves so we’re good, then we can also help take care of those around us,” said Lt. Matt Pickering, Navy chaplain. “Physical activity, taking care of our bodies, taking care of our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual selves is really important, and that was a big part of it.”
Hosting the 5K was also a good opportunity to reach more people on the ship with the theme and purpose of the event.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know it was about suicide prevention until I got out there,” said Operations Specialist Seaman (SW) Sonny Guzardo, one of the nearly 75 run participants. “When they put it that way, I just thought about a few people back home and I used that as motivation for the run.”
The broad impact of suicide both in and out of the military is one of the reasons Pickering was interested in hosting the event.
“Whether it’s a shipmate that they’ve had, or it’s been a friend or somebody from growing up, everybody has been touched or affected by suicide in one shape or another,” said Pickering.
Participants each got a free water bottle and the top three finishers received their choice of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, portable speaker or a G-shock watch.
Pickering said the format of the event as a competitive race helped change up the usual training on the topic, making it more interactive and increasing participation.
“When you think about whether it’s an NKO [Navy Knowlege Online], or a classroom setting, or at quarters…if you change the environment, you change the activity that centers around it, it also changes how you process it, how you remember it,” said Pickering.
Cpl. Hunter Proscia, who won first place in the 5K, said he enjoyed running for a good cause and was glad so many came out to support.
“It was a great experience, I had a lot of fun,” said Proscia. “It’s definitely contagious. You seeing your buddy from your left or your right go out there and do it, and say you know what, he’s going to suffer through the run, I’m going to do it too.”
Proscia, an avid runner and former cross country participant, said a few people came up to him after the event to ask for tips and advice for running. He said he looks at it as a way to help others around him, to provide support by getting a friend excited about working out or feeling like they can do more.
Along with building camaraderie between the blue and green team on board Mesa Verde, Pickering said he hopes the event highlighted the concept of “we’re all in this together.”
“I think a lot of it is really simple, if we just get outside of our shell or our box and just look out to the person who’s to our left and our right,” said Pickering. “At the end of the day everybody is going through the same stuff on a deployment, so if we can all just help each other out and push each other a bit, we’ll all get through it together.”
In conjunction with this month’s focus on suicide prevention, Mesa Verde also hosted trainings on topics including building resilience, navigating stress, encouraging bystander intervention to A-C-T (Ask, Care, Treat), as well as an ice cream social where resources and facts were displayed for the crew.
Mesa Verde is part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Information on suicide prevention is available from the following agencies: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255); National Community Walks, www.afsp.org.; International Association For Suicide Prevention (IASP); and at the Navy Suicide Prevention Program Webpage: www.suicide.navy.mil.