NEWS | March 2, 2011

Suicide prevention training raises awareness at Weapons Station

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Command suicide prevention coordinators attended Navy Suicide Awareness and Prevention Training, Feb. 23 and 24 at the Fleet and Family Readiness Center on Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station, and received information that may someday save a life.

The training, sponsored by Navy Personnel Command and Commander, Navy Region Southeast, was geared toward increasing suicide awareness and encouraging shipmates to take care of each other.

"Not one person is immune to suicide," said Cmdr. Linda Beede, suicide prevention outreach coordinator at NPC. "Our goal is to heighten awareness and teach command coordinators how to identify early signs of suicide so they can intervene early and hopefully save a person from taking their own life."

Day one of the two-day seminar offered peer-to-peer sessions for more than 180 instructors at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command, which focused discussion on the perspective that anyone, no matter their position in a command, can be on the first line of defense in preventing suicide.

Facilitators also worked with ombudsmen, the Navy's volunteer intermediaries between families and commands, to help them teach military spouses how to identify signs of suicide in their active duty loved ones.

Day two of the training focused on the Weapons Station's Suicide Prevention Coordinators, enabling them to design their own suicide prevention programs for their respective commands.

"Anyone, regardless of gender, religion, age or rank can be a suicide risk," said Commander Beede. "Each Sailor is that first line of defense, so it is important for Sailors to be able to recognize the warning signs - withdrawal, depression, anger, anxiety, mood changes or talk of suicide. Get involved; do not let rank interfere when taking care of each other."

The Navy's ACT program promotes three factors in dealing with individuals who may be contemplating suicide; Ask, Care, Treat.

"Ask simply means to ask a person how they are doing. If you see something is bothering a person or they seem to be under more stress than usual, try opening up lines of communication to get them to talk," said Commander Beede. "Asking is always the starting point.

"From there, offer them hope by letting them know there are people who care and are willing to help," she explained. "Finally we want to provide them with the help and care they will need, whether it's a counselor or a chaplain, to get them through whatever they may be dealing with."

According to Commander Beede, stress can be caused by many different things including financial and economic problems, relationship issues or even job situations. Extreme levels of stress can contribute to a person feeling overwhelmed and ultimately to taking their own life.

"The taking of one's life is one life too many," said Steve Holton, one of the facilitators from NPC. "The key to reducing the numbers of suicides is being proactive and getting help to an individual before the stressors become overwhelming. Early intervention helps keep the circumstances surrounding the at-risk person from spiraling out of control."

According to the training, suicide prevention has the most impact when the initial signs start to manifest themselves, however, most people do not recognize these behaviors as destructive or even dangerous.

"Our most valued resource in the Navy is our Sailors, the ones who defend our country and fight for our freedom," Naval Health Clinic Charleston's Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Cmdr. Keith Goldston, said. "However, many of these same Sailors go through tremendous amounts of stress, whether it is job related or not, which can affect them not only as a Sailor but as a person.

"Take care of each other," he continued. "A command is only as strong as their Sailors and we need all Sailors to be at their full capability to execute the Navy's mission."

If a Sailor is determined to kill him or herself, nothing is going to stop them.

Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

Sailors who talk about suicide won't really do it.

Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like "you'll be sorry when I'm dead," "I can't see any way out," - no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

Anyone who tries to kill him or herself must be crazy.

Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They are upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.