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Navy Rolls Out New Suicide Prevention Program

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Navy has rolled out a program aimed at providing added support for sailors considered at risk for suicide.

Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life (SAIL) is an evidence-based approach to intervention that provides rapid assistance, ongoing risk assessment, care coordination and reintegration assistance for service members identified with a suicide related behavior (SRB). Participation in the service-wide program is voluntary and is now available at all Fleet and Family Support Center locations.

The program works by linking sailors who have demonstrated suicidal behavior with Fleet and Family Support Center counselors trained in assessing suicide risk. Those counselors remain in contact with the participant for three months.

SAIL is not designed to replace existing suicide prevention efforts nor replace needed mental health services. It is not a form of treatment.

“A caring contact is all it is,” said Capt. Michael Fisher, director of the Navy Suicide Prevention Branch.

The problem of suicide among troops has plagued military leaders in recent years as numbers spiked. Navy Personnel Command data shows 51 active duty sailors and 10 reservists killed themselves in 2016, according to preliminary numbers. In 2015, the numbers were 43 active duty sailors and 14 reservists.

SAIL is patterned after the Marine Corps’ Marine Intercept Program, which began in 2014.

According to Fisher, some 40 percent of sailors who commit suicide had a previous attempt or impulse. Removing stigmas that prevent sailors from seeking mental health treatment or from helping those who appear to be in danger has been an ongoing challenge. The Navy has promoted intervention programs to help sailors recognize and respond to suicidal or risky behavior among their peers.

“We want people to be willing to step forward if they’re having challenges,” Fisher said.

The Military Crisis Line offers confidential support for active duty and reserve service members and their families 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255 or online at www.militarycrisisline.net. Text messages can also be sent to 838255. Questions regarding the program should be directed to Navy Suicide Prevention Branch at 901-874-6613.

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