September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a designated time to discuss the very real threat suicide presents to the Coast Guard and the steps we’re taking to ensure the mental health of our members and workforce.
In 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) established an Annual Suicide Report to serve as an official count of suicides across the Department that occur in a given year. According to the DoD’s inaugural Annual Suicide Report, 541 Service members lost their lives due to suicide in 2018. This is an increase over years past and is proportional to the increase in suicide rates of the United States population overall.
What’s even more startling is that approximately one-half (51.4%) of individuals who committed suicide in 2018 received some sort of care 90 days prior to their death. While this care may not have been suicide-prevention related or behavioral health care, it does highlight the need for everyone to know and be able to identify signs of suicidal ideation in the people we interact with on any given day.
The Coast Guard sees suicide as a preventable personnel loss that impacts unit readiness, morale, and mission effectiveness.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), warning signs of suicide include:
◾Feeling like a burden
◾Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
◾Increased substance use
◾Looking for a way to access lethal means
◾Increased anger or rage
◾Extreme mood swings
◾Sleeping too little or too much
◾Talking or posting about wanting to die
◾Making plans for suicide
In order to prevent such a tragic loss of life, the Coast Guard has a 24/7 toll free hotline, 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778), that is available to all Coast Guard active duty and reserve personnel, appropriated civilian, non-appropriated fund employees, and their families. It also applies to other Uniformed Service members and their families while either serving with or using Coast Guard facilities. If you, or someone you know, is exhibiting suicidal communications or behaviors, do not keep it a secret.
If you notice warning signs in a family member, friend, co-worker, or another person, and don’t know how to approach the topic, the Coast Guard has released an Ask, Care, Escort (ACE) Card that guides you through a list of questions. These questions can guide the conversation and let you know the most responsible steps to take next.
It is up to us to reduce the stigma of suicide and ensure those around us can and do access help when necessary. No one should lose their life because they were afraid to come forward, or someone around them was afraid to attempt that conversation or get them into trouble. The Coast Guard sees suicide as more than a medical problem – but a challenge to the entire community.
If you know someone in distress, please ask them about their situation and refer them to help. Additional suicide prevention resources available to the Coast Guard workforce can be found below. You can also learn more about the Office of Work-Life’s Suicide Prevention Program by visiting their website or visit CG-SUPRT’s website directly.
Suicide Prevention Resources:
CG-SUPRT Program: 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778)
Coast Guard Chaplains: (855) 872-4242
Coast Guard National Command Center: 1-800-DAD-SAFE (323-7233)
Military Crisis Line (Phone): 1-800-273-8255; Press 1
Military Crisis Line (Text): 838255
Military Crisis Line (For Deaf and Hard of Hearing): 1-800-799-4889
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (For Deaf and Hard of Hearing): 1-800-799-4TTY(4889)