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Suicide Prevention: Your Actions Could Save a Life

Story by Yan Kennon

Naval Hospital Jacksonville

Military life can be challenging. Reach out and be there for those at risk. Everyday connections can make a big difference to someone feeling alone, in crisis, or having thoughts of suicide.

People don’t need special training to safely talk about suicide risk or show genuine concern for someone in crisis. There are many ways — calling, reconnecting, meeting for coffee, going for a walk together — to be there for service members and veterans.

“Preventing suicide is about being there for every Sailor, Marine, and family member, every day,” said Cmdr. Rachel Baudek, Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s director for mental health. “Recognizing risk factors early is essential. Equally important are simple acts or words of kindness. You never know when that one word or gesture will make a significant difference in a life.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death (for all ages) in the U.S. Historically, suicide rates have been lower in the military than in the general population. However, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military suicide rates have been increasing and surpassing the rates for society at large.

Building resilience and preventing suicide requires all members of the Navy and Marine Corps community to work together.

Know the warning signs, which include thoughts or comments about suicide, substance abuse, purposelessness, anxiety, feeling trapped or hopeless, withdrawal, anger, recklessness, and mood changes.

Effective treatments and interventions are available for depression, situational stressors, and other health problems that are risk factors for suicide. Military members who seek behavioral health care are protected by law against discrimination.

Tips to help sailors and Marines stay mission-ready include: find time for oneself (improve sleep habits, try yoga or meditation, participate in enjoyable activities); break down obstacles (break challenges down into small steps and tackle one at a time); improve physical conditioning (regular physical training strengthens the muscles and the mind); avoid alcohol and substances (in order to manage stress, sleep, relationships, and responsibilities); and identify people to turn to when in need (identify a friend, family member, chaplain, or health care professional to speak with).

For free, confidential support 24/7, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255), text 838255, or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net. The Crisis Line is available to current and former service members, their families, and friends.

There’s also a Be There Peer Support outreach center, staffed by veterans and military spouses. Call 844-357-PEER (7337), text 480-360-6188, or chat online 24/7 at www.BeTherePeerSupport.org.

Active duty service members can schedule an appointment with their primary care manager at 904-546-7094. The PCM can make a referral to mental health. For urgent needs, the mental health clinic is available for walk-ins. Call the mental health clinic at 904-546-6351 for more information. The Deployment Health Center (904-546-7099) also offers pre- and post-deployment physical and mental health services.

Family members, retirees, and retiree families can call TRICARE Value Options at 800-700-8646 for mental health care. In addition, the hospital’s family medicine clinic has mental health specialists on-site.

For someone in immediate danger, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911. Remember to ACT (Ask, Care, Treat). ASK if someone is depressed and if they are thinking about suicide. Let them know you CARE. Get them assistance (TREATment) as soon as possible.

Suicide can be prevented. Every life lost to suicide is one too many.

NH Jacksonville’s priority since its founding in 1941 is to heal the nation’s heroes and their families. The command is comprised of the Navy’s third largest hospital and five branch health clinics across Florida and Georgia. Of its patient population (163,000 active and retired sailors, soldiers, Marines, airmen, guardsmen, and their families), about 85,000 are enrolled with a primary care manager and Medical Home Port team at one of its facilities. To find out more or download the command’s mobile app, visit www.med.navy.mil/sites/navalhospitaljax.

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