By Buddy Blouin
By now, there are tons of repeated messages, clichés, and organizations focusing on mental health and suicide within the military community. The unfortunate reality is it’s because this is a dark side to keeping our country safe. Navy suicide headlines continue to make the news and while awareness is important, Sailors deserve adequate resources to help get them through such difficult times. Thankfully, the U.S. Navy agrees and is working to improve mental health and prevent suicides as well. Resources are already available, but now, a mental health playbook has been released to help prevent Navy suicides from happening in the first place.

Navy Suicide Receiving Extra Resources

The topic of Navy suicide is needing even more attention as 70 were reported by the world’s elite naval service for 2022. This was a particularly harsh year for Sailors but these tragedies are springing forth even more action for the issue. Suicides in the Navy can be prevented. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources available, including the Veteran Crisis Line, available by dialing 988 and pressing 1, texting 838255, or via chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net. But more can be done. Such is the goal of yet another resource aiming to improve Navy mental health. When it comes to suicide, Navy officials are looking to help inform Sailors to ultimately prevent them from taking their own lives. By allowing new information and better accessibility to resources, the goal is to help prevent suicide in the Navy, while getting rid of the stigma of getting help. The Navy’s Mental Health Playbook is here and is looking to improve the culture of Sailors.

Navy Mental Health Playbook Aiming to Save Sailors

The Navy’s “Mental Health Handbook” was released in February 2023 to help Sailors facing issues while serving. Mental health in the Navy has been a concern within and outside of the military community. The goal of the handbook is to inform Commanders and all Sailors about the Navy mental health resources they have available while getting rid of stigmas surrounding getting help. There are five core sections of the Mental Health Handbook, including:
  1. Roles and Responsibilities
  2. Conversations That Matter
  3. Identifying and Responding to Mental Health Related Concern
  4. Navigating Support Systems
  5. Navy’s Mental Health Capabilities and Resources
Leadership has addressed the concerns surrounding Navy ship suicides, and negative mental health issues throughout the branch. The hope is that the Mental Health Handbook will help play a role in improving things for Sailors throughout the service. Resources have been available, but the Navy’s Mental Health Handbook has organized them in a way to help make accessing them easier for Sailors, providing a path for Navy suicide prevention. Additionally, the document is outlining the responsibilities of leadership and the role they play in making this possible. This contrasts greatly with the unfortunate nine suicides aboard the USS George Washington since November 2019. It was reported that despite Sailors seeking help for mental health, the Deployed Resiliency Counselor rarely saw Sailors despite being available near the ship.

Working and Living Conditions Looked at for Navy Suicide Factors

Serving is never going to be easy, but the conditions which Sailors face are also being looked at as a way to improve mental health. Speaking on the manner, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy James Honea, the Navy’s top enlisted Sailor talked about exhaustion being the top source of stress for the branch. Since earning his rank, Honea has worked to help Sailors improve their quality of life and even advocated for Congress to help junior enlisted personnel receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). "For a sailor that grew up living on ships, I'm telling you, it's not a great place to live. I would ask that we could look at (the law preventing BAH for junior enlisted), making those changes, so we could afford a greater break from their place of work to their place of home, giving them that separation," said Honea. It can be easy to see things such as a Navy SEAL suicide victim, as was the case with the late hero Cmdr. Robert Ramirez III, and incorrectly just pointing to yet another statistic. This is wrong and frankly, incorrect. Every Navy suicide is a tragedy for those lost, their loved ones, friends, the branch as a whole, and our country. It is encouraging to see the Navy continue to take steps to help those serving and Veterans improve their mental health and prevent such unnecessary events from repeating in the future.




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