Best Defense

An enlisted Navy sailor tackles suicide

There’s a good, serious article in the February issue of "Proceedings" about how the Navy could deal with suicide better.

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There’s a good, serious article in the February issue of Proceedings about how the Navy could deal with suicide better. It holds lessons for the other services and indeed for all of us.

“Most people cannot wait to scurry away when I start talking about the warning sings or how to ask, care, and treat those who may be at risk,” reports Jessica Smedley, who notes that her own father took his life five years ago.

The Navy could do a better job discussing suicides when they happen and taking care of those left behind, she says. “First, we want to the truth: When someone dies by suicide, say it like it is.”

Second, she writes, “we want compassion: when suicide happens, no one knows what to say…. Just be there and be kind.”

Third, “we want remembrance: both for the ones who killed themselves and for our new identities as survivors.”

Bottom line: Leaders need to show up and make it clear that, “You are not alone.”

Photo credit: U.S. Naval Institute 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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