Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) took part in a suicide awareness walk on the flight deck as part of the 10th Annual “Out of the Darkness” Community Walk, Aug. 30.
“The purpose of this walk is to generate awareness about depression and suicide,” said Lieutenant Commander Jason Duff, the ship’s psychologist. “It also serves as a time of remembrance for people who may have been lost to depression or suicide.”
The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), took part in a similar event during their deployment this time last year, said Duff.
Sailors from the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD), the Second Class Petty Officers’ Association and all the chief petty officer selects volunteered to support the event.
“I helped hand out t-shirts to all the participants involved,” said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Kiara Dominguez, Carrier Strike Group 12’s CSADD president. “I think it was a really important opportunity for people to learn about suicide prevention and to know the signs of depression.”
ASIST helped pass out t-shirts, paper cranes, which Sailors carried during the walk symbolizing long life and hope, and displayed a wall of remembrance.
“What the wall of remembrance was there for was to help us remember people who have gone through tough times and remember people who have thought of suicide, or attempted it,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Jolando Lightner, the ship’s Suicide Prevention Coordinator. “It was there to give people an outlet to say positive words to Sailors who are maybe thinking about those things or give their own stories or words of encouragement.”
TR also hosted a mental health fair and ice cream social after the walk.
Representatives from the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP), office of psychology, deployed resiliency counselor, Command Religious Ministries department (CRMD) and Family Advocacy Program (FAP) showed their support during the fair.
“They had a table showing you how to manage stress,” said Yeoman Seaman April Coats. “I don’t know how to manage it sometimes and the littlest thing can get to me, so I liked that they had that out there. I think the number one thing is that if people are dealing with stuff on the inside, they don’t always want to be questioned. When I walked up to the table, they didn’t ask me why I was there. They were friendly and didn’t [pry]..”
In the United States alone, suicide took 41,149 lives in 2013, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“It hits home for me,” said Dominguez. “I’ve had a few family members who have self-harmed, and a couple who have committed suicide, so this was something I really wanted to bring awareness to because I think everyone should know that it’s not a joke and it’s never something to just brush under the rug.”
The themes for Suicide Awareness Month are “Every Sailor, Every Day”, and; “One Small Act.”
“One small act can save a life,” said Duff. “That is so true. I see it every day. I see people walk their shipmates down here when that person is at a point where they really need help. It happens all the time. We do a really good job already out on the TR in terms of looking out for one another.”
TR and the ASIST team plan to host other awareness events including sunrise yoga on the flight deck, a suicide trivia night and a cake cutting event to continue to raise awareness throughout September.
“This is going to get people talking,” said Duff. “It’s going to bring it to the forefront, literally and figuratively bringing out of the darkness oftentimes very difficult topics. The idea is we don’t want to do it just for a day, or a few hours, or even just for a month. We want to be able to discuss it every day. We want people to be aware of this and we want people reaching out and looking out for their shipmates. That’s one of the best prevention and treatments out there; when people are tuned in and they know what to look for and how to find resources. That’s why this is so important for these Sailors.”
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anna Van Nuys, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs
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