NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Oct. 13, 2018) (NNS) -- Sailors from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) participated in the 2018 “Out of the Darkness” walk at the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, Oct. 13.
Sailors walked alongside their families, friends, and the community. The walk aimed to raise awareness for depression and suicide, promote good physical and mental health, and raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristen Yarber, an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) coordinator assigned to George Washington, organized a group of Sailors from the ship to participate in this year’s walk.
“I attend these walks because my friend and shipmate took his life last year,” said Yarber. “It opened my eyes and made me realize this is a very serious and real issue at hand. I want to show my support and help people in any way I can, and these walks are a way I can do that.”
“Out of the Darkness” events help support the AFSP. All donations help fund research for suicide prevention, create and distribute education programs, advocate for new public policies, and help support survivors of suicide loss. These walks are crucial for reaching the AFSP’s goal of reducing the suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025.
“These walks are important for several reasons, one of them being that they raise awareness for suicide,” said Yarber. “It starts a conversation about mental health and suicide prevention and diminishes the stigma around the subject of suicide. The walks also provide support for those struggling. Whether they are struggling with depression, anxiety, or are having thoughts about suicide, it lets them know they're not alone. It shows people care, and it reminds them that they always have someone to talk to. The walks also offer fundraisers, and the proceeds go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. These funds go toward research, raising awareness, and helping those struggling with suicide."
According to the Virginia government website at www.va.gov, those who are serving or have served in the military are 22 percent more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts. Yarber thinks it is extremely important for the military to get involved with events that provide awareness about suicide prevention.
“About four years ago, suicide became the leading cause of death among service members, outranking war and disease,” said Yarber. “You hear the phrase ‘22 a day,’ meaning that 22 veterans die by suicide each day--and almost four of those are active duty service members. I want that statistic to be zero a day, and by going to these walks, service members are starting the conversation about suicide.”
Similar to Yarber, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Tori Hurlbut, a Sailor assigned to George Washington who attended the “Out of Darkness” walk, agrees that suicide is a major issue in the military.
“With the rate of suicide being as high as it is in the military, it is crucial for Sailors to attend events like this and show support for their fellow service members and veterans,” said Hurlbut. “All Sailors should try to be part of the solution.”
Information on suicide prevention is available on the Navy Suicide Prevention Program webpage at www.suicide.navy.mil.
George Washington Sailors interested in being a part of the conversation to raise awareness for depression and suicide can learn more by attending ASIST meetings every other Thursday on the Floating Accommodation Facility mess decks at 9:00 a.m. The next meeting is Nov. 1.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.