By The Honorable Franklin R. Parker
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs
The American Association of Sociology began to recognize the week of September 10th as National Suicide Prevention Week in 1974. In 2012, we first recognized September as the Department of the Navy’s first Suicide Prevention Month, with the goal of educating our team and fostering a culture that recognizes seeking assistance as a sign of strength. The Department continues to develop, evolve and provide evidence-based training, support programs, guidance and policy to help reduce suicidal behaviors by promoting early intervention addressing mental health and stress factors.
You are the driving force behind prevention.
Our Navy and Marine Corps team is the world’s greatest expeditionary fighting force. From the deepest trenches of the Pacific Ocean to the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan, our Department of the Navy team remains steadfast in its determination to support our allies and defend the United States of America. I want every Sailor, Marine and civilian who supports our team to know – You Make a Difference. You make a difference for our Nation and allies at sea, in the air, on the battlefield, and in all our support activities. You also make a difference in the lives of your colleagues, your peers, and your families through the unheralded roles you play every day as critical elements of their personal support networks.
You are known for your excellence and for your intense focus on accomplishing the mission, which is part of the reason for your tremendous reputation and success. You place the mission above all else, sometimes even above your own emotional health. In this context of service before self, it is important to understand that asking for personal help does not equate to weakness or to a lack of mission focus. Seeking help when needed and supporting each other during times of personal crisis only makes us stronger – not just as individuals, but as a force.
This display of strength can be extremely difficult, which is precisely why it is such a courageous action to take. By seeking support during your most difficult times, you help to ensure you are at your best for your families, your teams, and to meet the mission. By seeking the support of others when you are in need, you make yourself and others stronger; even if personally you may feel anything but strong at that given moment. By surviving that moment, however, you emerge that much more prepared for what challenges may lie ahead, armed with the knowledge that you can and will endure.
Similarly, there is no greater service we can provide than to be there for another in need, whether in armed conflict or in personal crisis. Each of you has tremendous power to impact the lives of your fellow shipmates, marines, family and colleagues by understanding the key roles you play in support; and – through your compassion and example – by helping to break down the barriers that may prevent those of us dealing with a personal struggle from seeking the assistance we require.
At some point in our lives, each of us will require the compassionate support of another to help us through a difficult period. Sometimes even one kind act or timely conversation can make the difference in the life of another when it matters most. By being there for each other, whether as a sounding board, a shoulder to lean on, or to offer assistance if it appears necessary, you can impact the entire course of a life – sometimes even by one conversation that may be of greater significance than you ever realize. And, by supporting each other, we create an environment more conducive for each of us to seek assistance when we are most in need.
We are committed to you.
As Secretary Mabus has stated on numerous occasions, people are our greatest asset. Both Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel, and Lt. Gen. Mark A. Brilakis, Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and their teams have done a terrific job developing programs that educate, raise awareness, and strengthen the resilience of Sailors and Marines. Whether it’s 1 Small Act or Protect What You’ve Earned, our services continue to evolve and strengthen how we support our forces and our families.
Additionally, the Department offers Sailors, Marines, civilians, and their families a number of tools at their disposal, including chaplains, counselors, health care providers, family support programs, and even nutrition and fitness experts. It’s important every member of our team understands we are committed to you, both during your service and beyond, because you are our greatest asset.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, or if you want to talk about the stress in your life, please call Military Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-8255, press 1), Military OneSource (1-800-342-9647) or DSTRESS for a Marine-to-Marine approach (1-877-476-7734). Civilian employees and their families can reach out to the Civilian Employee Assistance Program (CEAP) at 1-844-366-2327, 1-866-829-0270 (international).
For more information on resources, visit the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center.