This week, Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) Vice Adm. Bill Moran and Fleet Master Chief April Beldo have a conversation with MC2 L.J. Burleson on the topic of suicide.
The conversation is an opportunity to help Sailors understand that suicide is a topic that should be discussed openly and honestly. CNP and Fleet Beldo say they want all Sailors to be aware of the needs of others, make it known that they are available in a time of need, and should be knowledgeable and willing to use the resources to find help in a moment of need.
MC2 Burleson: CNP, Fleet Beldo thank you for being here today, and thank you for being here too. We’re here today to have a conversation. We’re here to talk about ourselves, and our health, but not just our physically heath, our psychological health. A lot of us go through challenges and stressors throughout life that can be difficult to talk about. So, we’re here today to talk about a very serious topic, and that’s suicide.
CNP, it seems like Sailors are more prone to talk about physical problems or physical injures then they are to talk about stress and suicide, which can be difficult to talk about, or weird at times. So why is it important that we’re here today addressing this topic?
Vice Adm. Moran: Well thanks MC2. It is an important topic. You know after months on the job together, Fleet Beldo and I seemed like we’ve traveled out to every possible location around the globe where Sailors are. We feel like we know every one of them, both active and Reserve. So every time a report comes across our desk that talks about a Sailor who took their own life, it breaks our hearts. We really need to talk about this as a leadership team; we need to talk about it as members of our own teams, and the fleet. You know, there is no right time to talk about it; we got to talk about it all the time everyday; every Sailor all the time.
MC2: That makes perfect sense Sir. So Fleet, what do you suggest to help Sailors understand that no one is immune to stress and everyone is at risk for psychological harm in their lives?
Fleet Beldo: MC2, suicide is very complex. As you stated, nobody is immune to stress. Understanding that every Sailor has their own way of dealing with stress, and sometimes that Sailor has a hard time with reaching out and asking for help. I will be the first to admit I don’t understand it all, but what I will assure Sailors out there is if they ask for help, or when they ask for help, we will be the first ones to help them.
Vice Adm. Moran: Talking about our challenges whether they’re operational challenges, maintenance challenges, social challenges or psychological challenges like this one, makes all of us better. We all recognize that, so we have to talk about this together as a team. I think we all know that the stronger the team, the more we look out for each other and the more we’re going to recognize when things aren’t going right for Sailors, or something’s out of the normal. Those are the indicators that hopefully people recognize and they step in. I think whether you step in and actually save a life, or just express and act of kindness, that’s going to strengthen the team at the end of the day.
MC2: Absolutely, that’s what it’s all about. CNP what are some of the things we should be looking at or listening for in our interactions with our Sailors, our family members, and our friends? What do you suggest that we look at or listen for because a lot of people can’t read the signs.
Vice Adm. Moran: It’s interesting every time we’ve learned of a suicide. We often go back and look at what indicators we’ve might have missed along the way. They’re often very subtle, and sometimes they are very direct. It’s different for every person. Fleet talked about the complexity of this issue and it is very complex. There is no magic formula that we can train Sailors to recognize and immediately be able to act. It’s just a general sense of having good situation awareness of your environment and your teammates that are around you. If you’re someone who is having a tough day and is seeing some of those challenges, those stressors from home, the stressors from work, you have to recognize your own weaknesses as well and not be afraid to talk to others about it. Our teammates need to be the ones to have those conversations.
MC2: For the both of you. Where else should we turn? We have our leadership, we have our families; is there anywhere else that you suggest we turn in a time of need?
Fleet Beldo: I think all of our Sailors have gotten the information with regards to Every Sailor, Every Day. There are chaplains out there that we can look to. The Fleet and Family Support Centers have different programs, and turning to each other. I might not have the right answer, but I can get you the information. Sometimes it’s lonely. Some of our Sailors have demons and they don’t want to ask for help because they’re embarrassed. But no matter what your pay grade is, no matter your position, no matter how successful you are, that does not define the fact you have stressor and you can’t ask for help.
Vice Adm. Moran: The other thing I’d add is we have a great medical community as part of our Navy. They are well trained in many aspects of psychological, mental health issues. Again, because they’re wearing a uniform, it might dissuade people from walking in the door. Don’t be afraid to do that. Seek out that help, and make sure that those who see patterns of behavior that might cause you to think that a shipmate is having a tough day, don’t be afraid or reluctant to refer them to our medical professionals. It’s a great team, and they are part of the team when you look at the whole part of the Navy that’s trying to tackle this.
MC2: Well CNP, Fleet, thank you for being here and answering the questions, and thank you all for watching. I hope you were able to take something away from this video. And understand that there are resources like the one that’s actually on the screen right now. The website and phone number, be sure to reach out to that if you feel like you need someone to reach out to in a time of need. Be sure, like Fleet said, to reach out to family members; to Sailors; to friends; whatever you need to help get you the help that you deserve. And always remember; always remember; that help is always available. Thank you for watching.