An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Keyword
Category
Start & End Date

Saving Sailors from Suicide: USS Carl Vinson Supports Suicide Prevention Month with Wellness Fair

22 September 2022

From Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey Kempton, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO - The crew of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson held a Mental Health Wellness Fair to highlight Suicide Prevention Awareness month at Heron Park onboard Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI), Sept. 16.

For the Navy, combat readiness means having the most advanced equipment, technology and the best trained personnel to win any battle, including battles within the mind.

It’s a battle the Navy has been combatting since the service’s inception, and with no small amount of loss. According to the Department of the Navy Human Resources, 74 active-duty Sailors took their own lives in 2019, the highest number of suicides in a single year within the past 15 years. Since then, the suicide rates have been on a downward trend, due in part to the resources and tools the Navy provides for Sailors who may be experiencing mental health crises.

“One of the things that contribute to suicide related behaviors is difficulties within relationships,” said Lt. Odelia McFadden, ship’s psychologist. “Many of our resources focus on improving relationships with spouses and family members, but there are also plenty of resources that can help single Sailors as well.”

These resources include chaplains and religious ministries, ship psychologists, Deployment Resiliency Counselors (DRC), drug and alcohol advisory programs, Military One Source, medical care plans that provide for psychotherapy and a multitude of other programs and services that focus on helping Sailors navigate the biggest stressors of life. Although these resources are available to all Sailors, they can only assist those who know about them.

“Some individuals may be thriving and don’t necessarily need these resources at this time in their lives,” said McFadden. “Just being aware of what’s available to them is extremely important in case they might need help in the future.”

The Navy is following the National Alliance of Mental Illness in designating the month of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness month, which is focused on highlighting all the mental health resources available, helping to improve quality of life and promoting general mental health and wellness.

“The goal of the month is to highlight signs and signals put out by those experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation,” said McFadden. “It's all about educating the community on recognizing these risk factors and showing them what they can do to better help and support their fellow shipmates and members of the community.”

Another goal of the month is to destigmatize seeking help for mental health related issues and encourage Sailors to utilize the resources available to them, which was the driving force behind organizing the Mental Health Wellness Fair for Vinson Sailors.

“So many people struggle with mental health issues,” said Capt. P. Scott Miller, commanding officer of Vinson. “Even if it’s just one Sailor that we can help today by connecting them with the right resource, then it’s well worth the effort.”

The wellness event kicked off with a 5k Run for Life, followed by yoga in the park, where there were several vendor booths offering goodies and fun challenges, as well as information on their services. There were representatives from Fleet and Family Support Center, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society and Support the Enlisted Project (STEP), as well as Sailors from Vinson’s Medical and Command Religion and Ministries Departments.

“To be able to place faces and names with these resources in a welcoming environment like this is extremely beneficial to Sailors,” said McFadden. “They’re making a connection, which opens the door to utilize these services when they may really need it, and that can save a life.”

The highlight of the fair was the miniature horses and donkeys brought in by Cornerstone Therapeutic Riding Center (CTRC), a San Diego non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of wounded and recovering service members, veterans, first responders and their families through equine therapy.

“The horses are very adept at picking up on energies and they mirror back to people what’s going on inside of them,” said Judy Beckett, executive director and founder of CTRC. “We see people have profound epiphanies and personal insights through interacting with the horses. They have these amazing super powers.”

The riding center provides equine therapy to service members at no charge and signup sheets were available at the fair for Sailors interested in trying the program. Sailors were also able to pet the horses and donkeys, and a few volunteered to lead them through obstacle courses as part of a herding relay.

“They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they help with my mental health; I love them,” said Seaman Maria Lugo, a Vinson Sailor from deck department and relay race winner.

Vinson is currently going through a maintenance period at their homeport in San Diego. According to McFadden, maintenance periods heighten the risk of one of the most common factors that lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior: a sense of loss of purpose and belonging.

“Being outside the work environment in a social situation like this reinforces that feeling of belonging and bonding, which is vital for our mental health,” said Rear Adm. Carlos Sardiello, commander, Carrier Strike Group ONE. “It’s a beautiful day, and this is a fantastic event put on by Vinson leadership to take care of their family and team, and I applaud their efforts.”

In addition to the Mental Health Wellness Fair, Vinson has been promoting mental health wellness in other ways this month, including sporting events organized by Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and a calendar of daily activities aimed at reducing stress distributed by McFadden.

It’s all part of a Navy-wide effort to address the issue of suicide head-on and provide service members with the tools they need to overcome their mental adversities.

“Unfortunately, suicide is something that we can never truly eliminate,” said McFadden. “Reduction is the goal, and through mental health resources and events like these that help us promote them, we’re making a solid effort towards reducing suicide rates in the Navy.”

If you are a Sailor or dependent struggling with mental health or financial issues and need support, contact your chaplain, DRC, ship’s psychologist, or any of the below resources:

- Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: dial 988

- Fleet and Family: 1 (866) 923-6478

- American Red Cross: 1 (877) 272-7337

- Navy Marine Corps Relief Society:
Go to NMCRS.org and click “Get Assistance”

- STEP: Support The Enlisted Program:
Go to TeamStepUSA.org and click “Get Help”

 

Google Translation Disclaimer

Guidance-Card-Icon Dept-Exclusive-Card-Icon