Over the course of the month of September the Department of Defense has conducted a suicide prevention campaign. As the month draws to a close we wanted to take a moment to discuss this critical issue with our readers here at the Compass.
Suicide is a serious social issue that reaches far beyond the men and women who serve their nation. Statistics show that in the past year, 2.3 million adults in the United States made a plan, and 1.1 million attempted suicide.
Every year the Coast Guard loses unnecessary lives as a result of suicide. In each of these instances the loss could have potentially been prevented. Rear Admiral Tedesco, director of Health, Safety and Work-Life for the Coast Guard, acknowledged this in a recent message to the Coast Guard:
“In many of these cases investigations revealed that shipmates and family members were often aware that the member was experiencing serious problems but was not receiving any help to alleviate them. These suicides might have been prevented if the right action had been taken when it was first known that these individuals were in trouble.”
Recognizing the symptoms of depression and signs of suicide can quite literally save a life. So, in recognition of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we asked John Reibling, who oversees the Coast Guard’s suicide prevention program, how to recognize the signs and what to do if you think someone is harboring suicidal thoughts.
Reibling acknowledges that for many, this life-saving conversation can take you out of your comfort zone. To help you through the conversation, “ACE” is an acronym to keep in mind:
A – Ask. Approach the person in private and ask caringly what is going on. If you have reason to be concerned about the person harming him or herself, specifically ask the person if he or she is thinking about committing suicide. If they answer yes or indicate they are in distress help them to get the help they need.
C – Care. Show that you care by listening without judgment and offering understanding and encouragement.
E – Escort. Help the person get to the nearest help available depending on the situation. Never leave someone who is considering suicide alone.
If you or someone you know is battling with suicidal thoughts – seek help.
Chaplains, medical professionals and licensed mental health providers are equipped to step in and provide help through the Coast Guard Employee Assistance Program. There are also similar resources in communities across the country and we encourage you to reach out to them if you or someone you love is considering taking their own life.
It is our hope that you will spread the message on suicide prevention, and help raise awareness that regardless of who you are, there is support available.