The Importance of Suicide Prevention

By Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Laura Martinez, Force Master Chief and director, U.S. Navy Hospital Corps, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED)

Across all services September is recognized as Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. While suicide numbers in the military tend to be lower than their civilian counterparts, suicides within all branches have increased. This disconcerting trend has prompted leaders within the Department of Defense to reemphasize the importance of service members, veterans, and their families maintaining proper emotional, physical, and psychological health.

Existing resources are available to enhance local suicide prevention programs and inform service members of programs available to them. The DoD and VA have established a partnership dedicated primarily to providing education, counseling, and treatment in an all-hands effort at suicide prevention; anyone can access this resource by visiting www.suicideoutreach.org.

Above all, as Shipmates, we have a duty to look after one another. It is our moral imperative to seek professional guidance when our loved ones, co-workers, or friends manifest warning signs such as vocalizing an intention to harm their self, exhibiting social withdrawal, or otherwise showing uncharacteristic changes in behavior.

If the situation should arise, we must have the courage to act; ask if they are planning to harm themselves, care for them by actively listening and removing any means for self-injury, and ensuring they are escorted to treatment as soon as possible.

As the Force Master Chief and Director of the Hospital Corps, I am fully aware that many Sailors believe there is a stigma attached to seeking help for both depression and stress. Such thinking, however, could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is a sign of strength to seek help and strength in all areas of fitness is critical for not only personal wellbeing, but for military readiness as well. One of our chief duties, then, is to eliminate the stigma associated with seeking help and to become stewards for those resources available to all of us.

Organizations like Military One Source, Fleet and Family Service Centers, and your local commands offer robust resources toward identifying suicidal behaviors and offering pathways toward treatment.  Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is immediately available to service members by dialing 800-273-TALK (8255) and choosing “1”.

As we continue to fight wars on multiple fronts, deal with the uncertainty of frequent deployments, and the challenges of reintegration with our families, there has never been a time more critical for re-familiarizing ourselves with the tenets of suicide prevention.  Even one suicide is one too many, it is our duty and sacred obligation to look after one another at home and abroad.

Our chosen occupation has inherent stressors that are not commonplace in the civilian sector and we must be increasingly vigilant in identifying those Sailors manifesting a desire to do self-harm and seeking treatment before the desire is acted out. Please take care of yourselves and each other.

Content originally appeared on the DoDLive Blog: http://www.dodlive.mil/index.php/2011/09/medical-monday-the-importance-of-suicide-prevention/