I’m Vice Admiral John Mustin, Chief of Navy Reserve, and Commander, Navy Reserve Force.
Every day, suicide prevention is a priority for the Department of Defense, and certainly for our Navy Reserve. Every September, however, we particularly emphasize this complex issue…to talk about warning signs…prevention measures… available resources for our service members…and reaffirm our commitment to help each other through difficult times.
The theme of this year’s suicide prevention month is “Connect to Protect: support is within reach.” Our experiences with COVID-19 certainly reinforced those strong connections to family, friends, community and shipmates are vital to maintaining our emotional and psychological health. Those same connections also prevent feelings of isolation and disconnectedness.
Research shows social interactions can reduce risk factors for suicide, as well as increasing others’ awareness of potential warning signs.
Please educate yourself and look out for warning signs in yourself and in others, including: feelings of isolation, guilt, anger, hopelessness or rage… a reliance on self-medicating in response to emotional or physical pain… troubling social media posts or messages… or thinking about or hearing others describe potential methods of suicide.
If you recognize these warning signs in yourself or others, reach out to a friend and ask if they need your support. Listen without judgement. As always, take care of yourself — exercise, meditate, pray or take a moment to yourself. Facetime someone you care about. Talk to a chaplain, mentor or someone you trust. We all face challenges in life, but we don’t have to face them alone.
You don’t have to go it alone. Department of Defense and Navy Reserve resources include Military Onesource, the Psychological Health Outreach Program, and our chaplain hotline. They are there to help us all through stressful times with professionalism and confidentiality.
Also, take actions to put time and distance between yourself and lethal means, or the individual at risk – such as personal firearms or medications. The time between thinking about suicide and acting on it can be as quick as a few minutes. Safe storage such as lock boxes, safes, or simply removing potentially lethal items from the house can be effective in saving lives.
Shipmates, we are strong, but we are stronger together… in warfighting readiness, responding to conflicts or humanitarian efforts, and looking out for each other’s mental health and emotional welfare. Suicide prevention is an all-hands-on deck effort. I need you to be aware and dedicated to it as you are to other important missions — in September and year-round.
Now, let’s get busy.