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  • Chaplains Discuss Roles in Service Member Suicide Prevention

    Three service members reading a brochure
    Soldiers look at a suicide-prevention brochure that details suicide warning signs and suicide prevention resources. (U.S. Army photo by Gloria Montgomery)

    Pastoral counseling has long been recognized by service members as a safe harbor for moral questioning. More commonly now, service members seek pastoral care for uncertainties related to psychological health. In this setting, chaplains may counsel individuals having thoughts of ending their lives. For those who want help but resist confiding in their superiors, chaplains provide a confidential and approachable first-step that opens the door to preventative measures in the event the service member is considering suicide.

    The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Chaplain Working Group, consisting of military and Department of Veterans Affairs’ chaplains, is a spiritually-focused forum on deployment-related challenges, psychological health and traumatic brain injury. Laying claim to their unique opportunity to help reduce the incidence of military suicides, the group met during September, Suicide Prevention Month, to emphasize broader awareness, collaboration and counseling among their ranks.

  • Director’s Intent: Mapping the Future Course of DCoE

    Navy Capt. Richard F. Stoltz
    Navy Capt. Richard F. Stoltz

    Early in my professional career, I was energized by a youthful and intense desire to help others. My spirits were bolstered when I was hired as a child care counselor at a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed adolescents.

    On my first day at the job, I had troubling encounters with a 16-year-old female who was a heroin addict and a prostitute, and with a 15-year-old male who had shot and killed his father in self-defense. Weeks later, a resident broke a soda bottle and wrestled me onto the floor. The bottle’s sharp, jagged edges nearly punctured the jugular vein in my neck. Though I obviously made mistakes, ultimately I survived my professional baptism by fire and learned how to connect with these deeply-troubled teens.

    Later, I became a clinical psychologist treating a diverse population of adults ranging from high-functioning executives to inpatients on psychiatric wards. They had poor relationships with their parents, spouses and children. Their finances were a disaster. Their military careers were cut short or in great danger of ending.

  • Signs of Suicide: How to Help

    Two service members walking together

    U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Betty Boyce

    You may have noted increased attention to suicide prevention this month on military websites and related platforms. While efforts to address this tragic occurrence are ongoing and robust, Suicide Prevention Month, observed in September, concentrates attention on prevention resources. It also provides an opportunity for us to increase our knowledge and understanding of risk factors associated with suicidal behavior and how to help someone in crisis.

    Suicide is the deliberate taking of one's own life — 30,000 Americans commit the act each year and an additional 500,000 Americans attempt suicide annually, according to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office website. Also, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, and the fourth leading cause of death among 25 to 44-year-olds in the United States. On average, 18 veterans die by suicide each day. Yet, most of us don’t realize that if we knew what to look for, we might help prevent a suicide from happening. For example, friends or loved ones who may be considering suicide show symptoms of depression or anxiety, or may struggle with self-esteem issues.

  • How to Find Support, Heal After Disasters

    Soldier hugging his wife
    U.S. Army photo by Sgt. LaToya Nemes

    The recent Colorado floods and tragic incident that took place at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, will undoubtedly affect many of us in some way and for some time. To help with the challenging days ahead, we’re revisiting this blog post by Dr. Vladimir Nacev that offers tips for coping after a tragedy or disaster — personalize the tips to work for you and share them with others who could also benefit. We also encourage you to review the resources at the end of this post for additional support.

    Exposure to natural disasters — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires — and manmade disasters — shootings, workplace violence and war — may place a tremendous burden on our resilience, self-esteem and ability to survive a disaster.

  • Navy Medicine Chaplain Offers Compassion for Suicide Prevention

    Service members having a discussion
    U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lisa Tourtelot

    This blog post is from Navy Medicine Live, written by Capt. Roosevelt Brown, a chaplain with the U.S. Navy.

    I remember my first experience interacting with someone who was suicidal. Even though I was with my pastor, it was a scary occurrence.

    I was 23 years old and learning to be a chaplain. He had been called by this young man who said that he had taken some pills. We immediately left his office and went to his house. On the way, he explained the situation to me. I was wondering how we are going to handle this situation and what I should say. My heart was racing as I prepared for this moment.

    We rang the doorbell and his parents answered. As my pastor told them why we were there, they said that he was upstairs and they don’t think he’s suicidal.

  • Healthy Lifestyle Program Challenges Military Community to Eat Healthy, Exercise More and Smoke Less

    Push ups
    Construction Electrician 1st Class Chivas Matthews helps a child lead the count during a family day physical training session. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lindsey)

    Nowadays, we’re conscious of the merits of a healthy lifestyle. We watch TV shows and read articles warning us that the “supersize it” desire of the past is not the way to a healthy future. Whether it’s clean eating, exercising or not smoking, many of us are getting out there and fulfilling our healthy pledges. The Defense Department is also doing its part to support healthy lifestyles of service members and their families with its healthy living initiative, “Operation Live Well.”

    The health and wellness campaign targets every individual in the military community — service members, their families and civilians — and encourages everyone to adopt positive habits that promote good health. On the Military Health System website, you can access tools, information and resources including tips to make better food choices, stay physically active, quit or avoid tobacco, and stay mentally fit. The site also helps you develop your own personalized health plan with physical activity, nutrition, and mental wellness tools and mobile apps. Information is divided into five models for good health.