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NSW Focuses on Mental Health Awareness

by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Destiny Cheek
28 April 2023 Mental Health Awareness and National Suicide Prevention Months are acknowledged each year during the months of April and September respectively. This month, Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) is highlighting a Mental Health Awareness campaign that focuses on the importance of mental health and physical wellness among NSW personnel and their families.

Rear Adm. Keith B. Davids, commander, NSWC, highlighted the significance of the initiative.

“Our Naval Special Warfare operators are known for their resilience, strength, and unwavering commitment to the mission,” said Davids. “We realize that our line of work comes with significant stressors like rigorous training, years of recurring deployments, and family separation. Our priority is to ensure that they have the necessary resources and support to navigate through difficult times.”

The NSW community offers a range of resources, programs, and services to help operators manage stress, cope with challenges, and enhance their emotional well-being.

These resources include, but are not limited to, meeting with a mental health professional, counseling services and retreats provided by chaplains, attending training such as ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life (SAIL).

The command continues to bring awareness to mental health through training and education programs to help personnel identify warning signs of suicidal ideation in their peers and to encourage open dialogue about mental health.

Jeanne Lagorio, NSW Force suicide prevention coordinator and licensed therapist, launched a series titled “Warrior Talk.” In these videos, Navy SEAL operators share their personal struggles related to depression and suicidal ideations in hopes of encouraging others to reach out for help and breaking the stigmas associated with mental health.

“As the force suicide prevention coordinator, it is my responsibility to break down the barriers and stigma of seeking help for mental health that can lead to suicide,” said Lagorio. “It is my goal to end suicides within the active-duty ranks of NSW.”

In addition to taking care of your own mental health, it is important to look out for your teammates. Lagorio discussed the importance of checking in with the peers and colleagues.

"We support each other by staying connected. By doing this, we can all notice when a teammate is more stressed than usual, and be able to offer a listening ear," said Lagorio.

To increase awareness of the importance of mental health, the NSW community showcases artwork from the Military Art PsychoTherapy program. This program provides materials and resources that support the community through specialized clinical counseling focused on recovery, resilience, and resolution.

Each year, NSW’s servicemembers, spouses, teenagers, and embedded providers illustrate their perspective of what suicide looks like through art. Their work is then shared internally throughout the NSW community.

Another resource available to NSW teammates are chaplains and religious program specialists who not only support the community through providing religious support, but also through personally meeting with teammates to assess their situations and guide them to appropriate support channels.

Chief Religious Program Specialist Lamarsay Creer, NSW Force religious program specialist, has been a part of the NSW community for twelve years and supports the community through various deployments.

“In our role as chaplains, we have 100% confidentiality,” said Creer. “Sometimes Sailors just want to vent, and we provide a safe place for them to do that.”

Creer went on to discuss how mental health professionals differ from religious program specialists and chaplains, stating that they have a conversation with the member to identify their needs and how they can support them spiritually.

Besides a listening ear, another resource that is offered by the chaplain’s office are marriage and single retreats for members and their families through the Preservation of Family and Fleet Forces program.

“We care for each and every servicemember and their families,” said Capt. Dennis Wheeler, NSW Force chaplain. “As chaplains we are embedded into commands and frequently walk the deckplates so Sailors see firsthand that we are an accessible and ready resource.”

Leaders within NSW continue to promote help-seeking services by reminding operators to reach out for help when needed.

“Don’t hide or ignore mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts,” said NSW Force Master Chief Petty Officer Walter Dittmar. “Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. We want a mindset across the formation that good mental health and fitness is a routine part of who we are and what we do.”

Davids adds, “reaching out for help is a strong move. [Every] life is important to me and the NSW team. We need [everyone] in the fight. Let’s continue to lean on each other, so we can stay strong, resilient, healthy, and ready.”

Besides mental health professionals, chaplains and training, the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, and Military One Source are resources that can be utilized within NSW and the Navy.

Naval Special Warfare is the nation's elite maritime special operations force, uniquely positioned to extend the Fleet's reach and gain and maintain access for the Joint Force in competition and conflict.

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