This week, we talked with Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott Swift and Fleet Master Chief Suz Whitman to discuss suicide prevention, the need to create a resilient workforce and eliminate barriers that prevent Sailors from seeking help.
“September is Suicide Prevention Month, but suicide prevention is a year-round mission, one in which all of us as shipmates have a role to play to eliminate suicide from our ranks and eliminate the barriers that prevent Sailors from seeking help.”
– Adm. Scott Swift
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Pacific Fleet Sailors and civilian Sailors, the first principle of my commander’s intent is for us to preserve a resilient workforce. A key to that is rejecting behaviors that place individuals at risk.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, but suicide prevention is a year-round mission, one in which all of us as shipmates have a role to play to eliminate suicide from our ranks and eliminate the barriers that prevent Sailors from seeking help.
Suicide risk reduction is tied to our general resilience efforts, such as maintaining healthy relationships, ensuring Sailors have a sense of belonging, cultivating healthy personal and professional goals, developing coping skills to more effectively manage stress, and timely intervention for persons at risk.
Examination of previous suicides has taught us that common risk factors such as relationship problems, career disruptions like legal problems or professional setbacks, and periods of transitions can all be contributors to someone making a destructive choice. In many cases, these leading indicators, or portions of them, were known by shipmates, but we were not able to connect the dots before a crisis occurred.
Toughness – the ability to resist being overcome by stress – and resilience – the ability to recover from struggles or setbacks – are part of our Navy heritage. They are essential to our mental, emotional and spiritual fitness. And just as with physical fitness, the key to being in optimal condition is through practice and preventive efforts.
Fleet Master Chief Whitman:
Chaplains, Fleet and Family Services, and embedded mental health programs can help you to develop good practices for your mental, emotional and spiritual fitness – so that when you experience difficult circumstances you will be prepared to handle them. Most importantly, if you find yourself contemplating suicide, please ask for help.
When it comes to suicide prevention, we are all leaders and we must look out for one another to recognize people at risk and have the courage to ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide or wanting to die.
Words matter. Anyone, regardless of rank may need help from time-to-time. It is important that we convey in our words and our actions that we’ll be there when you need us. Make words like “Every Sailor, Every Day”, “1 Small ACT”, and #BeThere be more than just campaign slogans, make them a part of our culture.