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Suicide Prevention: Ask. Care. Treat.

Our measure of success really is how well our Sailors perform at their job. Ensuring they can come to work in a healthy environment. There are policies to set them up for success.

There are a lot of reasons members decide to take their own life. So words and thoughts matter, and pay attention to them.

 

MC2 Burleson: Welcome, I’m joined today by the director of the 21st Century Sailor office, Rear Adm. Karl Thomas to discuss his role as director, his expectations for Sailors and his plans to further the 21st century sailor program during his tenure. Sir, thank you for being here.

Rear Adm. Thomas: Thanks for having me.

MC2 Burleson: Sir, you have been here for a few months now. What are your long terms goals that you hope to accomplish during your tenure?

Rear Adm. Thomas: The 21st Century Sailor Office is responsible for a wide range of personnel policy, things like sexual harassment, sexual assault, suicide prevention, alcohol and drug abuse, and physical readiness. I tell my teams that our day job is to make sure those policies are current and they are relevant. Our measure of success really is how well our Sailors perform at their job. Ensuring they can come to work in a healthy environment. There are policies to set them up for success. My long-term goal really is about ensuring that every Sailor’s behavior is in line with our Navy core values and our Navy core attributes so that teams can be stronger, teams flourish. You can develop that unit pride that makes our Navy so special.

MC2 Burleson: Sir, as you know we are approaching Suicide Prevention Month. What is your message for Sailors for caring for themselves and caring for others?

Rear Adm. Thomas: The business and the lifestyle that we lead is not easy. We ask an awful lot of our Sailors and our leaders on a daily basis. It can be stressful. It can be work related stress; personal stress; social stress; financial stress and I would ask our Sailors to look out for one another. I would ask our leaders to find ways to reduce stress in the work environment. We need to have a place, an environment where Sailors feel comfortable bringing their challenges forward. We need our Sailors to feel comfortable. If they don’t feel well to go seek help. I would ask Sailors to look out if they notice somebody is hurting, to intervene and ask. It is really all about being human. It is about treating others like you would want to be treated, and being there for every Sailor every day, and follow and act. Ask, care and treat.

MC2 Burleson: Sir, what should Sailors be looking for in their interactions with others –other Sailors, other family members, maybe their friends? What should we be looking for?

Rear Adm. Thomas: Suicide usually occurs in Sailors who are under a lot of stress and experiencing a multitude of different types of stress. It can be relationship challenges; it can be problems at work, both personal or professional. It can be career transitions, disciplinary, or legal issues, financial strain. There are a lot of reasons members decide to take their own life. So words and thoughts matter, and pay attention to them. If you hear something that concerns you, act on it, and ask if the person is doing all right. There is no harm in asking someone if they have a firearm. Unfortunately, about 60 percent of our members that die by a suicide use a firearm, so asking if they have a gun, asking if it’s locked up, asking if you can hold on to it or maybe take it to an armory. Those are all viable questions that may be that break the chain that prevents a suicide.

Earlier this year, the Navy began the Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life Program (SAIL) to provide rapid assistance, on-going risk assessment and support for Sailors who have exhibited suicide-related behavior. SAIL supplements existing mental health treatment by providing continual support through the first 90 days after suicide-related behavior.

SAIL is not designed to replace clinical treatment for any suicide-related behavior. However, upon receiving information from commands about a Sailor who has demonstrated suicide-related behavior, suicide prevention coordinators work with CNIC, and in turn, a Fleet and Family Support Center case manager, whose responsibility will be to reach out to the individual Sailor to see if they would volunteer to participate in the SAIL program. Case managers will contact Sailors in the 90 days following suicide-related behavior. 

MC2 Burleson: Where can Sailors get more information about suicide prevention and the 21st Century Sailor Program?

Rear Adm. Thomas: This September is obviously suicide prevention month and we a website dedicated to that. It’s www.suicide.navy.mil. There is also a host of resources about the 21st Century Sailor Office on the NPC website. It will be coming to My Navy Portal in the near future. Visit those sites; ask questions. If you have concerns talk to your leadership. We want you to have a very safe September and the rest of the year. This is an opportunity for us to reenergize our knowledge about suicide awareness and take those small acts every day, and make sure that your shipmates are looking out for each other.

MC2 Burleson: Sir, thank you for being here and answering all the questions.

Rear Adm. Thomas: Thanks for having me.

MC2 Burleson: Thank you all for watching.

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