Story by: Scott Curtis

Every September the Navy is dedicated to raising awareness for suicide prevention and educating individuals on the programs and services offered for those who are, or know someone who is, struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideations. This year Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) held a proclamation signing and hosted a guest speaker to provide education and raise awareness for all hands.

By signing the proclamation, SERMC Commanding Officer Capt. John Lobuono reminded SERMC Sailors and Civilians that “life is incredibly rewarding, but equally challenging, and everyone experiences different stressors in their personal and professional lives, and strong relationships and cohesion are protective factors to build resilience during these challenges.”
“When adversity strikes, it’s great to be part of a team,” Lobuono said. “When a teammate gets knocked down, there are others nearby who can pick them up and dust them off. We are encouraging open and honest conversations, eliminating stigmas and educating our Sailors and Civilians on suicide warning signs so they have the skills to recognize and seek help for their peers and for themselves.”

This year’s guest speaker was Kevin Polky, an accomplished clinical social worker and founder of “Shatter Our Silence,” a non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness and educating people on the factors that lead to suicide in young adults. Polky spoke at two sessions to accommodate the audience, and said those who die by suicide were likely struggling to solve some stressful issue, be it a relationship, poor evaluation, financial hardship, but they did not have the proper coping skills to deal with the stress, which leads to feelings of hopelessness and isolation.

Polky said we must build resiliency by giving Sailors the skills to help them bounce back from adversity and become a better, stronger individual. “I believe strongly that we can educate people about mental health, but ultimately we can’t shy away from things in life that are going to make us tougher; we just need to be able to work through those things,” Polky added. “What we need to do individually is develop resiliency and believe that transformation can happen when we have obstacles in our life.”

“There is help available; you are not alone,” Lobuono said. “We care about you and whatever you are going through, no matter how bad it is right now, it will get better. The pain you are experiencing right now is real, but it is temporary.”

For someone feeling stressed, don’t wait until it becomes serious. If you or a loved one is at risk, please utilize the following resources:
Veterans Crisis Line (available 24/7)
1-800-273-TALK (8255) then press 1
Military Text: 838255
Civilian Text: 741741

For immediate crisis, go to your nearest emergency room or call 911.