Suicide Prevention: Be the Difference

By: Chief Hospital Corpsman Jon Rudolf Pangan, suicide prevention coordinator, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

As the suicide prevention coordinator for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, I advise on the day to day needs of the suicide prevention program for the chief of staff. It’s my job to promote awareness, make sure that everyone has the right resources and ensure that everyone is up-to-date on their education.

I’ve never been directly affected by suicide, but I’ve seen the toll it takes on those who have. I wanted to become BUMED’s suicide prevention coordinator because I saw it as my opportunity to be the difference between someone hurting themselves or seeking treatment.

I’m a hospital corpsman. I’m in this business because I care about other people. I want everyone to heal, whether they have a physical, a mental, or an emotional injury. Being a suicide prevention coordinator is my opportunity to do my part.

Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility. You need to know your shipmates to the point that when something is off or something is wrong, you can tell. Recognize the warning signs of suicide: hopelessness, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse, losing interest, and changes in diet or sleeping habits.

Do your part in suicide prevention and ACT if you notice anything out of the ordinary from a shipmate.

Ask them how they’re doing. Ask directly “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Show them that you care. To me, the most important thing is just listening. You have to talk to them and hear out what they have to say.

Then get them to treatment as soon as possible.

Visit the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s suicide prevention webpage to find links and resources to help you identify the warning signs of suicide.

Mental health providers are available at local military treatment facilities to provide effective treatment and interventions for depression, situational stressors and other health problems that are risk factors for suicide.

The Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control provides education programs to promote resilience while providing best practices to help Sailors and Marines maintain their mental health.

Local Navy Fleet and Family Support Centers offer access to qualified counselors to help with financial problems, stress navigation, transition assistance, deployment preparedness and more.

Military OneSource also provides information and resources to foster readiness and resilience in all areas of life. They offer non-medical counseling, specialty counseling, peer support and a number of other services.

If you personally are experiencing thoughts of suicide, seek help. There is no shame in seeking help.

The Military Crisis Line offers confidential support for active duty and reserve service members and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can visit them online, call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or send a text message to 838255.

Know that you’re not alone; we’re all in this together as a family.