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    Town hall discusses suicide prevention, mental health awareness

    Town hall discusses suicide prevention, mental health awareness

    Photo By Petty Officer 3rd Class Zachary Teslovich | Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story’s Command Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Jason...... read more read more



    Story by Michelle Stewart 

    Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story

    The Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story Chapel Department held its first-ever Suicide Prevention Town Hall at the Carl Brasher Conference Center recently.

    The town hall provided an opportunity for members to hear from, and speak with, mental health experts on the critical topic of suicide prevention and mental health.

    The idea of the town hall came from the base chaplain’s experience while serving on an intervention team and the desire to do more.

    “I was a member of the Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team that examined the response to the suicides that occurred on the USS George Washington (CVN 73) recently,” Command Chaplain Lt. Scott Dean said. “While on the ship I could see the frustration and feel the emotional heaviness from the crew. It was on my heart to do more.”

    Upon returning from the ship Dean met with the chapel team to brainstorm.

    The idea was to create a Ted Talk meets town hall, Dean said. “We invite people who have a piece of the puzzle and have a dynamic conversation. Maybe people who struggled with it and got help could come and share their stories,” Dean said.
    The town hall was presented in a panel format. The panelist included Lts. Courtney Gibson and LaShawn Gooden, Navy clinical psychologists at Naval Medical Readiness and Training Center Portsmouth, Mental Health Clinic at Sewells Point; Michelle Peterson, executive director of The Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation; Margaret Blair, Fleet and Family Support Center SAIL Case Manager and Rayshawn Penn, Eastern Regional Hub Lead for LivingWorks.”
    Peterson shared the story of her loss and why she started her foundation.

    “I am the wife of a 30-year Marine, and mother of four children. We lost my daughter to suicide. My daughter Sarah participated in sports, loved pets, was a girl scout, and had lots of friends - she was a normal kid until she got sick, Peterson said.

    “Sometimes we have preconceived ideas about people who become depressed, or overly anxious. It can be anyone, in your command, or your family, who could have trouble with their mental health. In the wake of Sarah’s death, our immediate and extended family talked about how we don’t talk about mental health enough - that maybe it’s not talked about the right way. It was through these discussions that the foundation was created.”

    In addition to the panelist, Religious Program Specialist Chief Jason Cooper, the chapel’s leading chief petty officer, recounted his personal experience.

    “In 2014, a year after returning from Afghanistan I was at a pretty low point in my life and I attempted suicide. I realized in the moment that I didn’t want my life to end, I wanted life as I had come to know it to end” Cooper said. Utilizing the Navy’s resources helped me get on the road to recovery. It helped to know that I was supported by the Navy and my family.

    “When I talked about prevention, I posed the question ‘who thinks the Navy cares about suicide’? In response, I receive a few yeses and some skeptical looks. I then asked, ‘who here cares about suicide’? I received nearly 100% yes. I then remind them that “we” are the Navy and each one of us has the ability to recognize the signs and the responsibility to help one another get the resources we need. I was lucky that day, and it was the support I received that got me through that time in my life.”

    According to Dean, when you research suicides, there are varying reasons why people attempt suicide. It’s a problem that we need to continually and creatively attack in different ways.

    “The town hall is another tool in our toolbox that we hope helped to destigmatize talking about and seeking treatment for mental health and thoughts of suicide,” Dean concluded.



    Date Taken: 06.08.2022
    Date Posted: 06.08.2022 15:55
    Story ID: 422533
    Location: VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, US 

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