Work Out to Speak Out: Coast Guardsmen exercise their bodies, minds for Suicide Prevention Month

A suicide awareness ribbon is worn by a Coast Guard petty officer, Sept. 10, 2015.  September is National Suicide Prevention Month. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

A suicide awareness ribbon is worn by a Coast Guard petty officer, Sept. 10, 2015.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer

Suicide is an issue that unfortunately affects all of us. According to the World Health Organization, someone in the world commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the U.S., someone commits suicide every 13 minutes.

These are our neighbors, family members, friends and shipmates.

Coast Guardsmen and their loved ones are not immune from the feelings and circumstances that can lead to suicidal thoughts.

On Sept. 10, in honor of National Suicide Prevention month, more than a dozen units from across the Coast Guard organized a special workout of the day to raise awareness.

The idea for Work Out to Speak Out came from Petty Officer 1st Class Jaimee Baker, administration office supervisor at Coast Guard Base Seattle. We caught up with her to learn more about the event and why suicide awareness is so important.

Lt. Joshua Mattulat, executive officer of Maritime Safety and Security Team 91101 Seattle, demonstrates proper technique of a cross-training exercise to Coast Guardsmen assigned to units aboard Coast Guard Base Seattle during Work Out to Speak Out, a group workout of the day organized to bring awareness to suicide prevention, Sept. 10, 2015.  Over the last three years, 25 Coast Guardsmen have committed suicide.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

Lt. Joshua Mattulat, executive officer of Maritime Safety and Security Team 91101 Seattle, demonstrates proper technique of a cross-training exercise to Coast Guardsmen assigned to units aboard Coast Guard Base Seattle during Work Out to Speak Out, a group workout of the day organized to bring awareness to suicide prevention, Sept. 10, 2015.
Over the last three years, 25 Coast Guardsmen have committed suicide.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

Q: Why were you compelled to organize a suicide awareness event?

A: My goal was to provide my shipmates with the most accurate statistics available regarding the rate and frequency of suicide in the Coast Guard. I am hoping that this information will be an eye opener, as I am certain many of us are not aware of how often this happens within our Coast Guard family. I also want to ensure that the many available resources are known. The workout was followed by a brief talk by a member of our Work-Life staff, which hopefully got everyone thinking, and maybe even prompted them to become an advocate for this cause.

Q: Why a workout?

A: A healthy body is a healthy mind.  Working out is just one way to relieve stress. It is also a way to gather a group of individuals and spread the word. With operational and support commitments it is hard to do that. I’ll take what I can get!

A group of Coast Guardsmen stationed at units in Portsmouth, Va., pose for a photo during Work Out to Speak Out, a group workout organized to raise awareness of suicide prevention, Sept. 10, 2015.  Thirteen units across the Coast Guard participated in the event.  U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Senior Chief Petty Officer Maria D’Angelo.

A group of Coast Guardsmen stationed at units in Portsmouth, Va., pose for a photo during Work Out to Speak Out, a group workout organized to raise awareness of suicide prevention, Sept. 10, 2015.
Thirteen units across the Coast Guard participated in the event.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Senior Chief Petty Officer Maria D’Angelo.

Q: How many units participated in Seattle? In the Coast Guard?

A: Approximately five units in the local Seattle area and 13 units Coast Guard wide participated, including units in Seattle, Florida, California, Alaska, Georgia, Puerto Rico and Virginia.

Q: What do you hope participants took away from the event?

A: A knowledge of resources available. And maybe even a greater sense of responsibility for their shipmates. We have such an impact over one another and I think that fact gets lost in the day-to-day shuffle.

A group of Coast Guardsmen from Coast Guard Base Seattle pose for a photo after finishing Work Out to Speak Out, a cross-training workout created to bring awareness to National Suicide Prevention Month, Sept. 10, 2015.  Members at 13 Coast Guard units around the country participated in the cross-training workout to support suicide prevention and to memorialize all the Coast Guard men and women who have committed suicide.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

A group of Coast Guardsmen from Coast Guard Base Seattle pose for a photo after finishing Work Out to Speak Out, a cross-training workout created to bring awareness to National Suicide Prevention Month, Sept. 10, 2015.
Members at 13 Coast Guard units around the country participated in the cross-training workout to support suicide prevention and to memorialize all the Coast Guard men and women who have committed suicide.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

Q: Why is suicide awareness an important issue?

A: In the last three years, 25 active-duty Coast Guardsmen have taken their own lives. Making people aware of the issue and teaching them the signs and symptoms is one of the most important aspects of awareness. We all matter, we are all part of the bigger picture and no matter how hard it gets there is someone that can help them. You can be a hero just by speaking kindly. You can be a hero by paying attention to each other.

Q: Do you hope to expand on the event in the future? If so, how?

A: I do hope to expand the event in the future. I am working with my Leadership Diversity Advisory Council and the amazing individuals that helped me organize this year’s event to make it as big as possible. My goal is to have more units than this year.

Bravo Zulu to all those who organized and participated in Work Out to Speak Out!

Remember, you can make a difference in someone’s life. You just have to be there.

Resources available for those considering suicide:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

CG SUPRT Program
855-CGSUPRT (247-8778)

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One Response

  1. Marian Popp says:

    This was a brillant idea, not just to promote more awareness of that “unmentionable topic” of taking one’s own life but to link exercise with the “speaking out” idea. As one with a professional counseling background and Coast Guard friends, I’m so pleased that depression and suicide are becoming topics acceptable to discuss, at least in some military areas. Bravo to the endorphin filled project. Bravo to the USCG for supporting the idea.