SEPTEMBER 14, 2016, GREAT LAKES (NNS) – In an effort to bring stronger awareness to suicide prevention, Training Support Center (TSC), Great Lakes, promoted the Navy’s message of “1SmallAct” during special training sessions for staff and students Sept. 7-8 and 12.
The message encourages all members to learn the acronym ACT; “ASK” directly are you thinking of killing yourself, show that you “CARE” by listening without judgment, and get immediate help to “TREAT” the Sailor. The training featured speakers and video clips of Sailors sharing their personal stories in experiencing the loss of a loved one to suicide, as well as others who have had previous suicidal thoughts and even an attempt on one’s life.
Capt. John Vliet, commanding officer of TSC, opened the training by reaching out to the attendees.
“I’m going to ask for a commitment from you right now; if anybody here has something that’s bothering them — if you’re not eating, sleeping, if you’re having trouble adjusting, if you can’t concentrate — do I have your word today that you will reach out and ask for help?” Vliet said. “You can reach out to anyone in your chain of command and ask for help. We are here for you. What you do, the decisions you make, can make a difference.”
That commitment the commanding officer asked of the attendees during suicide prevention and awareness training is one that goes farther than a one-day, or monthlong, commitment during a particular month. It is something the command is dedicated to yearlong.
“In this Navy family we look out for each other and every single 21st century Sailor,” Vliet said. “Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month is a part of what I believe and direct the command to instill in each other every day — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We all have an obligation to look out for one another whether they are Department of Defense (DOD) civilian or active military personnel. In this Navy family we look out for each other.”
The sentiment was echoed by Chief Religious Program Specialist Michael Willis, suicide awareness coordinator for TSC. All members of the Navy community should lead by example and take proactive steps toward strengthening physical, psychological and emotional wellness on a daily basis, recognizing when it’s necessary to seek help.
“During Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month the Navy directs that everybody receives annual training,” Willis said. “Of course, we all know that suicide prevention and awareness has to be a daily endeavor in order to make some headway for those who may have suicidal thoughts and those who can do something to get them help.”
The first part to awareness and prevention is to recognize the warning signs — seeing no reason for living, having no sense of meaning or purpose in life; anxiousness, agitation, nightmares, inability to sleep or excessive sleeping; feeling as though there is no way out; feeling hopeless about oneself, others or the future; isolation from friends, family, usual activities, society; feelings of rage, uncontrollable anger, seeking revenge; acting without regard for consequences; dramatic changes in mood; and suicidal thoughts.
“Life can be difficult, [and can] contain a lot of challenges especially being the military,” Willis said. “So, if we know the warning signs and risks factors we can prevent some of the thoughts from becoming actions. In order to get ahead of the problem it is going to take the Navy as a community, everybody being trained and aware of the warning signs, and feeling comfortable engaging and getting people the help that they need.”
If warning signs are recognized, engagement is a start to getting the person help. Ask the individual if he or she is having suicidal thoughts. If so, do not leave the person alone and get help immediately.
“Here at TSC, the CO (commanding officer) always talks about suicide awareness and prevention and has made it clear that anyone can go to him for assistance,” Willis said. “I find that consistent with the staff from the top on down. I’ve seen examples of Sailors bringing their shipmates to the chaplain’s office, letting the Navy Military Training Instructors (NMTIs) know when somebody is struggling, and even they themselves alerting staff when they are going through hard times. We want everyone to know that it is okay to ask for help; it is not a sign of weakness.”
There are many avenues to seek help. The Military Crisis Line offers confidential support for service members and their families. They can be reached by calling 800-273-8255. Chaplains can be contacted in confidence and local Navy Fleet and Family Support Centers offer access to qualified counselors.
“If anybody needs help, please ask for help,” Vliet said. “We have many [and] offer many resources or you can go talk to a chief petty officer, or even talk to me. If anybody needs help, it is a noble thing to ask for help.”