BANGOR, Wash. –
You feel trapped. Surrounded by walls of loose sand with incomprehensible height. It’s dark, and you want nothing more than to get out of the depths. You dig your fingers deeply into the cold sand, attempting to pull yourself up and out of the mess. The grains gently fall over your hands, down your arms, and to your feet. There is no leverage. It is hard to muster more energy. You feel deep in your gut that one day the sand walls will collapse.
These feelings may be difficult to cope with, but don’t lose hope.
“We are here to pull you out of the darkness,” said MM1 Heinks, a suicide prevention coordinator at Trident Refit Facility, Bangor (TRFB). “Sometimes it takes a team to heal.”
TRFB provides Sailors and civilians who are struggling with suicidality a hand to help pull them out of hardship.
“We have multiple Sailors, including myself, who are coordinators in the Suicide Prevention Program at TRFB,” said Heinks. “The program helps Sailors at risk of suicide. Civilians who are struggling with suicidality have access to the Department of the Navy Civilian Employee Assistance Program (DONCEAP) instead of the Suicide Prevention Program. But, of course, if a civilian were to come to me asking for help, I would never turn them down. I would help them contact the DONCEAP. I encourage everyone to direct those in need to the right path.”
According to a news release by the Navy Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life (SAIL), an intervention program for Sailors at risk of suicide, suicide is one of the Navy’s top three causes of death annually. A small act of kindness could have an impact on this statistic.
“The last command I was at had three suicides in a two week period,” said Heinks. “One of those suicides was my chief. It really hit home with me. So when I got to TRFB I became more involved with the Navy’s Suicide Prevention Program. I feel if I can help someone who is struggling in some way, even just giving them someone to talk to for a little bit, I feel like I am doing something helpful. It’s always a good feeling when you see your actions making a difference in someone’s life.”
Making connections with people can help you recognize suicidal risk factors. These risk factors include events that may lead an individual to feel hopeless, and filled with despair. Being aware of these risk factors can help save a life.
“We do a lot of preventive work,” said Heinks. ”Anytime someone is going through a stressful period, such as financial or disciplinary issues, they are encouraged to reach out for mental health help. We make sure to give them resources so they know how they can manage that stress. This prevents a lot of possible mental health issues. If they haven’t hit that dark period yet, we can be there to make sure they never do.”
A few may slip through the cracks when it comes to recognizing risk factors. When this happens, it is important to recognize warning signs of suicide. Warning signs are behaviors that indicate an immediate risk of suicide. Some of these behaviors include ideation, substance abuse, anger, and withdrawl.
“A lot of people tend to close themselves off and avoid help,” said Heinks. “Withdrawing from others is common for someone who is suicidal. The signs need to be recognized by others in order to help. We have had people turn around once we see the warning signs and then helped them. When people realize they have a supportive network and resources, it really encourages them to get better. They end up feeling like they can see a positive future.”
A positive future is something we all can work toward. When in a time of darkness, remember the helping hands. TRFB’s Suicide Prevention Program and DONCEAP will always be there for you. When presented with a supportive grip that will pull you out of the darkness, reach back and hold on tight.