A Message from the National Commodore and the Commandant of the Coast Guard
I ask you to take a moment to read Admiral Zukunft’s message below. It provides awareness of a very serious and tragic issue that our Coast Guard family must deal with. It also provides guidance on things that we can do to assist, such as practicing the three “knows”. As the Commandant writes; know your unit, know your mission, and most importantly, know your people. Please take this message to heart. Together, we can help make a difference.
To my Coast Guard family,
This morning, I received a call notifying me that one of our own was lost to suicide. It was the fifth such call in three weeks. Each notification is as difficult as the last. Each notification means we are without another teammate, co-worker and friend. Each notification means a family is grieving while friends search for answers. Today there are five less people standing the watch.
Suicide can be the result of confusion, pain and suffering which may cloud judgment and cause otherwise unthinkable choices. The despair faced by those in peril can overwhelm even the strongest among us. Worse yet, warning signs can be subtle or even unnoticeable. There are no easy answers.
Every one of us is a leader. As leaders, we need to redouble our efforts in practicing the three “knows.” Know your unit, know your mission and most importantly, know your people. Our Duty to People requires that we get out, walk around and talk to all those with whom we serve. Knowing our people requires us to listen. Do we know their family situation? Do we know where they live, where they are from, or a few of their interests? These are not test questions, and we do not learn our people by memorizing cue cards. We know our people by talking to them and listening to them, regularly and consistently. This is where leadership matters most and is paramount in our Duty to People.
Every one of us is valuable. As individuals, it is difficult to comprehend the circumstances leading a person to decide to end his or her own life; and it is normal to search for answers and to attempt to understand “why.” The truth is we just don’t know. What we do know is that we all have a duty to watch out for one another and to ask for help when needed. Doing so requires courage. It requires courage to reach out for help. It requires courage to intervene when someone we know displays signs of need. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
If you are in need, take the first step to reach out for help. Early access to care is vital – now is the time to call your Chaplain, Work-Life and servicing medical staffs or anyone you can talk to and trust. The message to each member of our 88,000 person force of active, reserve, civilian and auxiliary is “you are not alone – there is hope.” That theme is a duty we all share, and it must resonate across every level of our Service.
There is hope. You are not alone.
Admiral Paul F. Zukunft
If you are in need, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is a 24/7 resource that will connect you with a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area.
The Lifeline’s website (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org) provides a variety of useful information on how to get help, get involved, and resources to learn more about suicide prevention and mental health issues.