Life Challenges are Both Positive and Negative
We face challenging life situations every day. Often, life situations create positive challenges and serve to help motivate people to push themselves to meet the challenge. However, when a person perceives an event to be a threat to their physical and psychological well-being, they are likely to have a negative reaction.
A person’s response to difficult life circumstances depends upon a number of factors. These factors may include support from friends and family, whether they view the situation as a "challenge to be overcome" verses a "threat," the degree to which they feel in control of the situation, and how committed they are to shipmates, friends, family, and work.
Leaders, however, are in a unique position to support Sailors experiencing difficulties through personal interactions, unit policies, and coordination with base helping agencies. It is important to initiate support at the point when Sailors are first experiencing mild or moderate levels of distress. This is preferable to waiting until they are in crisis.
Role of Leadership: General Measures
In the military environment, it is important that leaders recognize the potential impact of life stressors on Sailors in order to optimize mission readiness. Leaders should collaborate with base helping agencies to ensure that members have the support they need to meet life's challenges. Additionally, leaders should emphasize and support self-care strategies, including time for leisure and exercise, and collaborate with the Sailor's family and other community support as needed.
LEADERSHIP INVOLVEMENT IS A TEAM PROCESS
Commanding Officers, Command Master Chiefs, and Supervisors are key members of any prevention effort. Each has a tremendous opportunity to provide interventions early when non-medical interventions can have the greatest positive outcome for the Sailor and the unit. Good communication between leaders, helping agencies, and Sailors allows the team process to work well.
SUPPORTING INDIVIDUALS IN DISTRESS IS VITAL TO FORCE HEALTH PROTECTION
Force Health Protection addresses all health related threats affecting the Sailor's ability to accomplish the mission. A healthy and fit force is a necessary component for mission readiness.
Stress prevention and management are key components of Force Heath Protection and addressing stressful life events early is an important facet. Stress prevention entails a broad range of efforts for supporting Sailors when they face difficult life challenges, including addressing problems before distress occurs.
HELPING OTHERS COPE
KEYS TO REMEMBER IN HELPING PEOPLE COPE WITH LIFE STRESSORS
- Everyone has stress in their life.
- Most personal reactions to significant life events are normal.
- Negative reactions must be dealt with to avoid disruption of the ability to perform and the development of physical and psychological illnesses.
- In many cases, there are simple and effective strategies for Sailors to deal with life stressors.
CONSEQUENCES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF LIFE STRESSORS
Severe life stressors may have an enduring and profound impact on a person's life. Examples of immediate and long-term negative consequences of severe stressors may include:
- Impulsive behavior
- Suicidal behaviors
- Violent behavior
- Anxiety Disorders
- Interpersonal problems
It is important to remember that stressors can provide individuals with opportunities for growth, for example they can help people:
- Strengthen coping skills, improve resiliency and problem-solving skills
- Increase confidence when faced with daily and life challenges
POSITIVE STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH LIFE STRESSORS
- Understanding the facts of the situation and piecing together all bits of information.
- Managing one's personal level of distress and understanding that stress is normal.
- Using social networks and community resources for support.
Seeking help early may prevent the build up of troubling symptoms, including depression and suicidal behaviors. When help is needed, it is okay to refer Sailors to the Chaplain, Fleet Family Support Center (FFSC), Mental Health or other helping resources.
The main goals of early intervention include:
- Relieving symptoms such as worry or sadness.
- Restoration to the previous level of functioning. (Green Zone)
- Identify factors that would prevent future stress reactions.
- Teach adaptive life skills, so that the person is better able to cope with future pressures.
COMMUNITY RESOURCES FOR COPING WITH LIFE STRESSORS
Community Resources are there to help! The Navy provides a variety of resources that can assist Sailors in coping with life stressors. Leaders should consider:
- Suggesting a self-referral to Mental Health for a routine intake.
- Provide referrals to the Chaplain, Fleet and Family Support Center or Military One Source
HOW TO DEAL WITH POTENTIAL BARRIERS
If you are considering referring someone to Mental Health to help them cope with a significant life stressor, be aware of several potential barriers:
- Some Sailors hold the mistaken belief that visits to Mental Health will be part of the unit record. Mental Health documentation is not put in their Service Record. However reports to the command are made if danger to self or others is a concern, or if someone admits to a crime.
- Some Sailors may view mental health problems as a sign of weakness or a stigma in some way. Emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength!
- Some fear that being a mental health patient will be detrimental to one's career. The process of selecting Sailors for assignments, schools, and promotions does not include review of the medical information unless there is a duty-limiting reason.