NSTC Looks to Follow Right 'ACT' with New Suicide Prevention Task Force and Instruction

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Story Number: NNS140210-14Release Date: 2/10/2014 8:34:00 PM

By Scott A. Thornbloom, Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Commands aboard Naval Station Great Lakes held their quarterly Suicide Prevention Task Force meeting to discuss suicide prevention at Great Lakes, Feb. 7.

In an attempt to build a stronger suicide prevention program in 2014, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) has joined forces with other area commands and commands and programs across the NSTC domain to form a Suicide Prevention Task Force backed up by a new NSTC instruction and updated Navy policies.

"When we started this task force last year we felt the appropriate thing to do was review all of our instructions and update them," said Capt. Carlos Ortiz, Navy Region Midwest (NRMW) and NSTC leading chaplain and the senior chaplain of area command chaplains in the Great Lakes area.

Since February 2013, Ortiz and selected personnel from NSTC, NRMW and Naval Station Great Lakes have been meeting as a task force to devise initiatives, programs and training on suicide prevention for Sailors and civilians in the Naval Station area and in the NSTC and NRMW domain. This includes getting the word out about the Navy's "ACT', (Ask, Care, Treat) acronym.

"Our latest (NSTC) initiative is to begin organizing and putting together for the admiral [Rear Admiral Dee L. Mewbourne, NSTC commander] a quarterly drumbeat. What this is simply is a quarterly meeting of all local area commanding officers and their Suicide Prevention Coordinators (SPC), command master chiefs, chaplains and anyone involved in suicide prevention to brief the admiral on what they are doing in their commands, what their efforts are and how they are tracking any statistics."

Ortiz said the quarterly meetings also includes the other NSTC-domain commands and programs, such as Recruit Training Command (RTC) at Naval Station Great Lakes, Officer Training Command (OTC) at Naval Station Newport, R. I., and the more than 160 colleges and universities that represent Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) units.

There are also monthly meetings for the task force, usually on the first Tuesday of each month, according to Ortiz.

"The 15 person Suicide Prevention Task Force is composed of Region Midwest and NSTC personnel working for the NSTC Commander, (Rear) Admiral Mewbourne," Ortiz said. "The task force is charged with the development and implementation of innovative resiliency efforts, analysis of and review of data, curriculum, regulations, best practices and future technologies to produce adaptable war-fighters and promote Sailorization."

Chaplain Ortiz said the task force has accomplished numerous tasks and introduced several new initiatives over the past year. These include:

*publishing new Suicide Prevention Instructions, like the recent NSTC Instruction (NSTCINST 1720.1A signed by Mewbourne Nov. 5, 2013) for both major commands and their subordinate commands.

* The task force coordinated and executed a major Suicide Prevention Symposium in June 2013 involving over 50 attendees that included OPNAV N171, command triads, command SPCs, command chaplains and Fleet and Family Service Center counselors throughout the Midwest Region. It's a symposium the task force hopes to host every year.

* Ortiz said they have also introduced ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) for new Recruits (RTC) and Officer Candidates (OTC) as part of core values lectures.

* They have initiated chaplain presence and involvement at Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR), Operational Stress Control (OSC) and Suicide Prevention (SC) briefs.

*established Setting Sail curriculum and revised stress management curriculum for Recruit Division Commanders (RDC) at OTC Newport.

*published a brochure, "Refueling in Rough Seas" for family and friends of graduating Sailors to serve as an Intro to the Navy pamphlet.

*submitted preliminary proposal with the NSTC staff to develop a Suicide Prevention Avatar Training package and requested the package to be included in the Program Objective Memorandum 2015 (POM-15) budget.

In his recent blog dated January 20 (http://navylive.dodlive.mil/2014/01/20/navy-making-positive-progress-on-suicide-prevention/), Rear Adm. Sean Buck, director of the 21st Century Sailor Office, said, "A year ago, we launched an effort we called Task Force Resilient, which primarily aimed at the causes of suicide. We brought every resource we could bring to bear to the issue of building resiliency in our Sailors and their families," said Buck in his blog.

"For suicide, resiliency represents the process of preparing for, recovering from, and adjusting to life in the face of stress, adversity, trauma, or tragedy. We found through our research that there is a link between suicide prevention and resiliency, and that resiliency can be learned."

According to Ortiz and Dr. Julie Ruddy, director of Recruit Mental Health at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC), the mission of the task force at Great Lakes is to reinforce 'ACT' and just as the Navy has Core Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment, the task force also has Core Values of Ask, Care, and Treat (ACT).

"We teach honor, courage, commitment. The recruits are the front lines. We have an obligation to get a shipmate help. We have an obligation to tell them to not be afraid to go to their chain, and let them know they need help," said Ruddy.

Ruddy explained the acronym, "ACT," urges awareness in all Sailors and gives distinct actions to be taken if someone is suspected to be suicidal.

"The 'A' stands for ask, which is simply asking the affected person if they are thinking about suicide. 'C' is care, letting the person know you care about them. Finally, 'T' represents treat, which is to get the person treatment as soon as possible," she said.

Comprehensive mental health evaluation for recruits at RTC is provided by the Recruit Evaluation Unit, where Ruddy is the Supervisory Clinical Psychologist and Head of Recruit Mental Health at FHCC. Other Sailors, military retirees and military family members, and Veterans can receive mental health care and treatment at FHCC.

"Suicide is a tragic, highly complex health issue, and is usually the result of a combination of several risk factors," said Ruddy. "Anyone may find themselves in a situation to prevent suicide. It is often co-workers and family who are exposed to various warning signs that someone may be considering suicide."

Staffs stationed at the Naval Station Great Lakes, the Quarterdeck of the Navy, receive suicide prevention training during indoctrination to the command and twice-yearly during safety stand downs, in accordance with Navy policy. Warning signs and potential triggers are reinforced so that they are never ignored.

"Frequently cited warning signs of suicidal behavior are making statements about suicidal thoughts or plans, giving away possessions, a decline in work performance, any legal or disciplinary trouble, excessive alcohol or drug use, loss of interest in activities, self-isolation, unexplainable mood or behavioral changes, and problems with impulsively," said Ruddy. "Other potential triggers include divorce, separation or break-up, loss of financial security, chronic medical problems, significant personal losses such as death of a loved one, being passed over for promotion, unwanted PCS/deployment/other new job assignment and subsequent lack of a social support system."

There are numerous resources available for active duty, their dependents, and Veterans including at the CAPT James A Lovell Federal Health Care Center, Great Lakes. Support services are available with a Navy Chaplain, at Fleet and Family Support Centers here or at other Navy and Marine Corps bases worldwide, or even within the chain of command.

Navy suicide prevention resources and additional instructions can be found at www.suicide.navy.mil, Military One Source (1-800-342-9647), and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK[8255]). Ruddy recommends programming key phone numbers into personal cell phones, including those listed here along with base emergency numbers and key command numbers. The updated NSTC Suicide Prevention Program Instruction (NSTCINST 1720.1A) can be found on the NSTC Directives website at http://www1.netc.navy.mil/nstc/NSTC_Directives/instructions.asp/.

According to the updated instruction, "The leadership of NSTC is committed to maintaining a fit and healthy force because the health of our Sailors and civilians is vital to our readiness. Suicide and suicidal behavior not only impacts the lives and well-being of our personnel but also affects their families, friends and coworkers, Leaders are encouraged to be involved in the lives of those they supervise by having a caring relationship and by being aware of any issues that may be affecting them."

The instruction discusses supporting the annual Suicide Prevention Symposium and the establishment of the NSTC Suicide Prevention Task Force. It also discusses "ACT" and the Five Guiding Principles for Resilience; Predictability, Controllability, Relationships, Trust and Meaning. The instruction also includes checklists for the guiding principles, the Suicide Prevention Program, and Suicide Behavior Response. There is also a Distressed Caller Worksheet and several hotline numbers.

Ortiz, who retired January 31, said newly reported chaplain, Capt. Bruce Boyle, will take over running the task force along with Dr. Ruddy. Ortiz also said he believed new commanders and personnel that arrive to area commands and to OTC and NROTC units will continue supporting and need to know about the Suicide Prevention Task Force and the resources and training they can obtain and use when needed.

"I think any new NSTC commander could come in and change instructions or programs, like the recent suicide prevention instruction, but I don't believe it will be needed. And I'm sure any new commander would want to take the expertise of any group that has put together something like the Suicide Prevention Task Force and its initiatives."

Ruddy said the most important thing to remember when it comes to suicide prevention is to "ACT."

"Ask if someone is thinking about killing themselves. Care and listen to the person. Do not leave the person alone and Treat, get the person treatment. Identification of warning signs and taking immediate action is fundamental to help minimize suicidal behavior. Prevention remains the ultimate goal," she said.

Headquartered on Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., Mewbourne and his NSTC staff oversee 98 percent of all initial accessions training for the Navy, with the exception of the officers produced by the U. S. Naval Academy. This training includes the Navy/Marine Corps Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command (OTC) on Naval Station Newport, R.I.; Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy's only boot camp, at Great Lakes, Ill.; and Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.

For more information about NSTC, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or visit the NSTC Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/.



For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.

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