By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Pyoung K. Yi, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - Every year September is recognized as National Suicide Awareness Month. Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) offers various resources to help Sailors and staff manage stress, depression, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety or emotions that may contribute to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
"Encouraging Sailors to seek support through the available services such as the primary medical provider, chaplain, mental health, Fleet & Family Support Center or Military One Source is a way to deal with suicidal thoughts or feelings of hopelessness," said Lt. Jennifer J. Thompson, clinical psychologist at NMCSD's Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Branch Health Clinic and suicide prevention coordinator at NMCSD.
Navy active duty suicides began to rise sharply in 2011 and 2012 (according to the Navy Personnel Command), which raised concerns throughout the Department of Defense and the Navy's Surgeon General, said Thompson. The majority of people who commit suicide present a number of warning signs before taking their own life, including anxiety, hopelessness, withdrawal and anger. According to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, a suicide attempt is made every minute in the U.S. There are up to 25 suicide attempts for every suicide completed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. The most recent data was compiled in 2010, with 38,364 suicides reported across the nation, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 13.7 minutes.
Certain age groups have a higher incidence of suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 25-34 year olds and the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. Currently, suicide is one of the top three causes of death in the Navy, according to the Department of the Navy Suicide Incident Report.
"Recognizing distress warning signs, which include depression, feelings of being overwhelmed, threats of self-harm, end-of-life actions, and reckless behavior are where intervention needs to occur," said Thompson.
In studying causes of suicide, there is a significant association between stress-inducing issues and a person killing herself or himself, according to Thompson. These issues include relationship problems, financial problems, work and legal issues, substance abuse struggles, chronic pain and sleep-related troubles.
Another major contributing factor is when individuals go through a transition. Whether it is relocating to a new city or adjusting to a different work environment, they may feel a sense of displacement and anxiety.
Since the Navy imposes transitions on Sailors and their families by transferring and deploying Sailors on a regular basis, this results in the family and service member needing to rebuild community and social connections, which can be stressful.
"All of these types of transitions can impact lifestyle and are common factors that can lead to distress related behaviors," said Thompson. "It's important to keep in mind that adjusting to change can impact one's sense of hope, one's stability and one's resiliency overall." The Navy's Suicide Awareness Month theme for 2013 is "Thrive in Your Community." It encourages Sailors to utilize various resources the Navy and the surrounding community offer to maintain psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual health. "Getting the message out that cultivating a sense of community and genuine support from leadership, shipmates, family and friends can help counter suicide risk factors," said Thompson. "This theme supports Sailors to thrive, not just survive while building skills that help them to navigate through stress while reinforcing resilient behaviors."
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