Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.
While we thankfully did not lose a Coast Guard member in the conduct of Coast Guard operations in 2014, we still endured significant losses to our Coast Guard, our families and our communities.
Among the most painful were those lost due to suicide. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma associated with suicide. But they are moms, dads, friends and coworkers. Most of all, they are people who are missed. I write this as a commanding officer who once lost a crewmember, our sailor of the year, after he took his own life. It reverberated throughout the entire ship, and it is an emotional scar that I carry with me today.
We look out for one another while we are executing our missions. But as we leave our unit for the day, or pull into port, our Duty to People does not end. Our Duty to People requires eternal vigilance.
For those who are contemplating suicide: first and foremost, know there is hope. Know you have resources. Know there is someone you can talk to and there is no shame whatsoever in seeking help.
Further, we know alcohol can frequently contribute to suicidal thoughts. I joined the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Michael Botticelli, to highlight effective prevention and treatment initiatives for both Recovery and Suicide Prevention Month. You can watch our message above or directly at the White House blog.
When I went aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton to witness one of the largest drug offloads in our Service’s history last month, I shared the message of unity of effort as U.S. and allied forces sever transnational organized crime networks. Standing with the crew on the mess deck, I shared another equally important message – don’t go it alone.
I encourage each of you to carry that message forward. If you are in need, reach out for help to a chaplain, Work-Life professional, medical staff or anyone you can talk to and trust. If you see someone who needs help, step in.
This is where our leadership and our Duty to People matters most. Don’t go it alone.