USS Carl Vinson Supports Suicide Prevention Month with Wellness Fair > United States Navy > News-Stories

For the Navy, combat readiness means having the most advanced equipment and technology and the best trained personnel to win any battle, including mental battles.

It’s a battle the Navy has been waging since the service was created, and with quite a few casualties. According to the Navy’s Human Resources Department, 74 active-duty sailors committed suicide in 2019, the highest number of suicides in a single year in the past 15 years. Since then, suicide rates have trended downward, thanks in part to the resources and tools the Navy provides to sailors who may be experiencing mental health crises.

“One of the things that contributes to suicide-related behaviors are difficulties in relationships,” said Lt. Odelia McFadden, the ship’s psychologist. “Many of our resources focus on improving relationships with spouses and family members, but there are also many resources that can help single sailors as well.”

These resources include chaplains and religious ministries, ship psychologists, Deployment Resilience Advisors (DRCs), drug and alcohol counseling programs, a military source, medical care plans that include psychotherapy and a host of other programs and services that aim to help sailors navigate life’s greatest stressors. Although these resources are available to all sailors, they can only help those who know them.

“Some people may be thriving and don’t necessarily need those resources at this point in their lives,” McFadden said. “Just being aware of what is available to them is extremely important in case they need help in the future.”

The Navy is following the National Mental Illness Alliance in designating September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which focuses on highlighting all available mental health resources, helping to improve quality of life and to promote mental health and general well-being.

“The focus of the month is to highlight the signs and signals given by those who are having suicidal thoughts or ideation,” McFadden said. “It’s about educating the community on recognizing these risk factors and showing them what they can do to better help and support their shipmates and community members.”

Another goal of the month is to de-stigmatize seeking help for mental health issues and encourage sailors to use the resources available to them, which has been the driving force behind the organization of the well-being fair. to be sanity for Vinson sailors.

“So many people are struggling with mental health issues,” said Capt. P. Scott Miller, Vinson’s commanding officer. “Even if it’s just one sailor that we can help today by connecting him to the right resource, it’s worth it.”

The wellness event started with a 5k run for life, followed by a yoga session in the park, where there were several vendor stalls offering treats and fun challenges, as well as information about their services. There were representatives from the Fleet and Family Support Center, the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society and Support Enlisted Project (STEP), as well as sailors from the medical and religion departments and Vinson command ministries.

“Being able to place faces and names with these resources in a welcoming environment like this is hugely beneficial to sailors,” McFadden said. “They make a connection, which opens the door to using these services when they really need them, and it can save a life.”

The highlight of the fair was the miniature horses and donkeys presented by Cornerstone Therapeutic Riding Center (CTRC), a San Diego nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of injured and recovering service members, veterans, first responders and their families through equine therapy.

“Horses are very adept at picking up energies and they send back to people what’s going on inside of them,” said Judy Beckett, CEO and Founder of CTRC. “We see people having deep insights and personal insights from interacting with horses. They have these incredible superpowers.

The equestrian center offers equine therapy to service members at no charge and sign-up sheets were available at the fair for sailors interested in trying out the program. Sailors were also able to pet the horses and donkeys, and a few volunteered to lead them through obstacle courses as part of a herd relay.

“They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they help me with my mental health; I love them,” said sailor Maria Lugo, a Vinson sailor from the deck department and winner of the relay race.

Vinson is currently going through a period of maintenance at her homeport of San Diego. According to McFadden, maintenance periods increase the risk of one of the most common factors that lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors: a sense of loss of purpose and belonging.

“Being outside the working environment in a social situation like this reinforces that sense of belonging and bonding, which is vital to our mental health,” said Rear Admiral Carlos Sardiello, Commander Carrier Strike GroupONE. “It’s a great day, and it’s a fantastic event that the leaders of Vinson have put together to take care of their families and their team, and I applaud their efforts.”

In addition to the Mental Health Wellness Fair, Vinson promoted mental health wellness in other ways this month, including sporting events hosted by Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and a calendar of daily activities to reduce stress distributed by McFadden.

It’s all part of a Navy-wide effort to tackle the problem of suicide head-on and provide service members with the tools they need to overcome their mental adversities.

“Unfortunately, suicide is something that we can never truly eliminate,” McFadden said. “Reduction is the goal, and with mental health resources and events like these helping us promote them, we are making a strong effort to reduce suicide rates in the Navy.”

If you are a seafarer or dependent with mental health or financial issues and need help, contact your chaplain, DRC, ship’s psychologist, or one of the resources below:

– Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: dial 988

– Fleet and family: 1 (866) 923-6478

– American Red Cross: 1 (877) 272-7337

– Navy Marine Corps Relief Society:
Go to NMCRS.org and click “Get Help”

– STEP: Support the Enlisted program:
Go to TeamStepUSA.org and click “Get Help”