Recognizing self-destructive behavior saves lives
by MC3 Diana Quinlan, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii
PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Sailors from enlisted ranks and officers joined DoD civilians in attending a suicide prevention session at Sharkey Theater Sept. 24 on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The session was designed to promote awareness about the significance of suicide across all military services and to teach about the recognition of symptoms and prevention of suicidal behavior.
Lt. Cmdr. Kaarin Coe, suicide prevention coordinator, Navy Region Hawaii, organized the event and introduced the topic to the attendees.
"As you are all aware, this month is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month," said Coe. "The theme for the Navy this year is 'Thrive in Your Community', encouraging everyone to get involved either through their command or local volunteer opportunities."
The session aimed to show that an ability to ask for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather as a sign of courage to admit that one has a problem and willing to work on it with assistance and encouragement from others.
"Research has shown that when someone has a strong sense of community and belonging, they are more likely to reach out for help during times of stress," Coe continued. "Those who are willing to help others are usually more willing to receive help."
Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, was in attendance and spoke to the audience about the importance of recognizing the issue and comradery needed for suicide prevention.
"One of the reasons why I wanted to come here today is so I can learn, better understand, and so I can better lead," said Williams. "We are not going to be able to control the environment, but there are ways we can manage it. And the ways we might be able to manage it is by recognizing the problem, and recognizing those who may have this problem. And just because this is a suicide prevention month does not mean we stop working on it and looking for symptoms, it means we should continue facing this challenge year-round."
The main speaker of the event was Dr. Ishmael W. Stagner II, member of the Statewide Prevent Suicide Hawaii Taskforce (SPSHT), a state, public and private partnership, which aims to reduce the incidents of suicide attempts in Hawaii.
Stagner has more than 50 years of experience in various levels of education, holding multiple degrees and most recently certified Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist in the State of Hawaii. He dedicates his time working with youth in correctional facilities, reestablishing their roots with the culture and helping heal strained relationships with ohana (family), as well as being a strong advocate in defending military veterans and reaching out to anyone in need of help.
Stagner own son, who served in the U. S. Air Force and who suffered a potential post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following multiple deployments to warzones, committed suicide in 2008.
"[Suicide] numbers especially in the military are epidemic," said Stagner. "We have more military dying of suicide than in combat. My son was in combat, but he died when he returned home. Since my son died in 2008, I've made it my mission and my passion to go and check on [military members]."
Stagner stated that Navy Sailors are especially vulnerable compared to other services due to long deployments on ships and spoke of the importance of shipmates watching out for each other, being mindful of potential problems.
"Basically we have time bombs here," he said. "We want to be able to defuse them, or at least talk to them about what we can do to help, because this is going to be critical. When we are dealing with human lives, there is no such thing as irrelevant human life. It does not matter if you are a seaman or a four-star admiral, the fact of the matter is that the problem is serious."
He emphasized multiple times during the session that it only takes one person to say something nice, to extend a helping hand, to assist in solving a problem or to simply show that they care.