A version of this post was originally released as an ALCOAST message from Capt. Joel Rebholz, acting director of U.S. Coast Guard Health, Safety and Work-Life.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Every year we lose members of the Coast Guard family to suicide. Although it is difficult to know why people end their own lives, some of the reasons include not knowing where to go for help, the stigma of reaching out and neglecting personal and family social, psychological and spiritual fitness. Suicide is preventable. By taking action when it is uncomfortable and by developing and maintaining personal and family resilience, suicidal behavior can be stopped.
Individually, you can build resilience by becoming involved with events or activities that you value and enjoy. These activities might include spending time with loved ones, mentoring others, becoming active in your local community, participating in personally meaningful activities and developing new interests or hobbies. Family strength may be bolstered by seeing a counselor, learning meditation, cooking together, developing a fitness routine and volunteering to help others. These types of activities improve our ability to cope with the stress of everyday life and are considered protective factors that can reduce the prospects of depression and, ultimately, suicide.
In addition to building personal and family strength, it is important to learn to identify and respond to suicidal signs. Family members, close friends, shipmates and commanders may be in the best position to identify harmful thoughts or behaviors and offer help. A few common behaviors that suggest an individual may be considering suicide are: withdrawal, anger, mood changes, increase or misuse of alcohol and drugs, feelings of being trapped or hopeless or loss of life’s meaning.
There are many sources of help for people having suicidal thoughts and for those dealing with a suicidal loved one. If there is an immediate chance of someone hurting themself or if someone has attempted suicide, treat it as a medical emergency and call 911. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
For information about suicide and resources for those in need of help, consider these programs and services:
A. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-TALK at any time. Speak with someone who can help you talk about your situation and identify resources. For more information visit their website.
B. CG SUPRT: Call 855-CGSUPRT (855-247-8778) at any time. This is the Coast Guard Employee Assistance Program, available to assist active duty members, select reserve, civilian employees and family members with all kinds of issues such as financial matters, relationship discord and other stressors that could be leading to suicidal thoughts. CG SUPRT can assist in an emergency, providing counseling, and helping you obtain resources. Additional information and resources are available on the CGSUPRT website.
C. Contact a Coast Guard medical clinic, Employee Assistance Program Coordinator, or Chaplain. Their contact information can be found on our suicide prevention website.
D. For additional information about suicide and Coast Guard policies on suicide prevention and other Work-Life matters, visit the Coast Guard Work-Life website .
Commanding officers and/or officers-in-charge are strongly encouraged to use this message as a starting point for unit discussion and education on this topic. Contact the Employee Assistance Program Coordinator in your district Health, Safety and Work-Life office.