My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 14, 2020

Wellness Wednesday Sneak Peek—A Discussion about Mental Health

By Keisha Reynolds, MyCG Writer

There wasn’t one particular moment—there were many. 

Cmdr. Lyle Kessler battled depression and frequent suicidal thoughts for which he didn’t at first know where to turn. Kessler, from the Coast Guard’s Seventeenth District in Juneau, will share his story at today’s Wellness Wednesday. He will be joined by Chaplain Scott Shields, a lieutenant commander also at District Seventeen, who will share resources for those suffering. The conversation will happen Oct. 14 from 3-4 p.m., EDT on CVR Teams. 

“I am going to share my story of depression and suicidal ideations to help raise awareness so that other people going through that can get help,” said Kessler.

Shields will identify resources available to the workforce like Ask, Care and Escort (A.C.E.), a quick hip pocket card used to remind Coast Guard members how to help those with suicidal ideations. “I believe intervention and prevention begins with suicide-safer communities,” said Shields. “We need people confident enough to stand in the gaps and be a supportive shipmate, a good listener, and not leave them alone.”

Shields believes a Coast Guard that’s trained in suicide prevention and intervention, and community building, will be a suicide-safer organization. “We are building a community of care givers and linking people in need with others and with resources,” he said of his resiliency hikes that he leads as just one way to foster connections and sharing amongst Coast Guard members. 

Kessler eventually got the help he needed when he confided in a doctor at the Base Ketchikan detached clinic in Juneau, who sent him for specialty care to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage. Now, it’s been two years and after medication and counseling, Kessler is continuing to thrive. 

“My life is immeasurably better,” said Kessler about depression and his emotional extremes. “I am not having mood swings and although I still get happy and sad, things have normalized.”

Kessler added, “Barriers are the reasons people may not want to get help. People think they will be discharged but depression and suicidal thoughts in and of themselves aren’t reasons for discharge. Certainly depression can cause some behaviors that may lead down that road, but our hope is to get people help before it ever gets that far.”

Kessler wants members, and even leaders, to begin sharing their stories so that people will know it’s okay to get help.

“I’m really hoping and praying that our shipmates won’t be afraid of the topic of suicide, and [instead] seek out ways to get involved,” said Shields. “On any given day, one out of five people have suicide ideations, so it’s not a matter of if suicidal ideations will impact us, but when.”

Please click this link to attend Wellness Wednesday from your CG computer, personal computer or mobile device. You may also call (571) 388-3904; Conference ID 453 387 852#. If you have questions or suggestions, you may e-mail us at wellnesswednesday@uscg.mil