Sailors Aboard USS Iwo Jima Encouraged to “ACT” in Preventing Sucide

Sailors aboard multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) have learned how to Ask, Care and Treat (ACT) fellow shipmates exhibiting signs of suicide during September’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

“ACT is a way for Sailors to help one and other,” said Master Chief Navy Counselor Martha E. Lara, suicide prevention coordinator. “It encourages Sailors to help shipmates who are at risk. From a seaman on the deck plates to the commanding officer, it is everyone’s responsibility to take action where action is needed.”
Lara believes no Sailor is alone, and that everyone is here to help one another if the need arises.

“Deckplate leaders are the Navy’s first line of defense in suicide prevention,” said Lara. “We work with these Sailors everyday and can notice any change in their behavior. Therefore, we must do what needs to be done and ACT.”

ACT involves a three-step process. First, ASK a Sailor if they need help and if they are thinking of hurting themselves or others. Second, CARE by showing them that
someone cares enough to listen and not be judgmental. Third, TREAT by finding help for them and connect them with the ship’s chaplain or medical personnel. Make the Sailor aware that talking to someone, like a shipmate or a friend, can help.

“Suicide is a complex issue that has come from a number of different reasons,” said Lt. Jennifer Ayers, an embarked clinical social worker and mental health provider. “Like with any physical injury, mental injuries require treatment. ACT is a simple, direct acronym Sailors can think of to help someone who shows signs of suicidal thoughts.”

There are many stressors that can affect any Sailor’s work and home life, and ACT is an action a Sailor can use to assist a shipmate identify those stressors.
“Elements like the death of a loved one, financial problems or stress at work can lead to alcoholism, drug abuse and in turn can lead to suicidal thoughts,” said Ayers.

Ayers added that operational stress control is another big topic when discussing possible issues related to suicide or suicidal thoughts. The more a person is exposed to traumatic events and experiences, the more likely a person is to develop mental injuries such as posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Iwo Jima, along with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently deployed supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Naval Today Staff, September 25, 2012