September 27, 2023 2:03 am
Are more mental health resources in store for limited-duty sailors?

Editor’s note: This report includes discussion of suicide. Troops, veterans and family members members experiencing suicidal thoughts can contact the 24-hour Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255, text 838255 or stop by

The Navy would be necessary to enhance mental well being care access and screenings for restricted-duty sailors beneath new legislation introduced in the U.S. Property of Representatives.

The measure would need mental well being provider billets, such as health-related officers, chaplains, and civilian mental well being providers, for any units with 15 or a lot more restricted-duty status sailors. These sailors would also undergo a mental well being screening with a certified mental well being provider, then get subsequent screenings each 60 days when on restricted-duty.

The work comes following a series of suicides final year of sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier George Washington and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Upkeep Center in Virginia. All 4 sailors who died by suicide inside a span of 28 days at MARMC have been seriving on restricted-duty status.

“I definitely require men and women in a fantastic headspace so that they can concentrate on obtaining the mission performed,” Rep. Jen. Kiggans, R-Va., who introduced the legislation, told Navy Instances. “And so that is my intent behind the bill — just to make our military members know that there’s assistance out there, it is okay to ask for assistance, and to make it effortless for them to ask for assistance.”

Virginia Reps. Rob Wittman, a Republican, and Bobby Scott, a Democrat, co-sponsored the legislation.

“When you take anybody, truly, out of their capacity to do their job or to do their mission, you produce some challenges just in the mental well being division,” mentioned Kiggans, who served ten years in the Navy as a helicopter pilot. “So, this bill especially addresses these commands that have 15 or a lot more restricted-duty sailors.”

The measure also calls on the Navy to produce a dashboard to track high-quality of life applications and the price at which they are becoming made use of.

The Navy would also be necessary to examine circumstances like these on the George Washington and at MARMC and establish a common operating process for handling various suicides in the span of 30 days.

A Navy report released in December discovered that the deaths of 3 GW sailors more than the course of six days in April 2022 have been not connected, but described the ship’s psychologist and the behavioral well being technician as “overwhelmed.” The report claimed sailors who required assistance faced a backlog of roughly 4 to six weeks for initial appointments.

A subsequent report released in May well examining high-quality of life determined that the functioning atmosphere for sailors assigned to the George Washington for the duration of its mid-life refueling and complicated overhaul was poor, and undermined the execution of high-quality of life applications.


A separate Navy investigation examining the 4 suicides at MARMC late final year discovered they, also, have been unrelated. Nonetheless, the report discovered all 4 LIMDU sailors had accessed Navy mental well being solutions, have been in their 1st enlistment, and have been also facing “family, monetary, health-related and profession-connected aspects.”

On-web site mental well being and resiliency counselors as properly as chaplains are now readily available at MARMC to satisfy an “unfulfilled” require prior to the suicides, the report mentioned.

“We require to be functioning on erasing that stigma and producing positive there’s no repercussions … taking care of your mental well being is just like taking care of your physical well being, and it is okay to ask for assistance,” Kiggans mentioned.

A total of 70 sailors died by suicide in 2022, an enhance from 59 suicides in 2021 and 65 in 2020, according to the Navy.

Navy leaders in current months have acknowledged that suicides across the fleet are a significant concern they are attempting to address.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday mentioned at the annual Surface Navy Association conference in January that the problem is a “vexing” trouble for the Navy, and that efforts to boost mental well being have been not adequate. The Navy released a “Mental Overall health Playbook” in February in an try to foster conversations in between commanders and their sailors and remove any stigma related with searching for assistance.

“We’re conscious of the challenges that lots of have seasoned in obtaining sailors to the mental well being sources readily available to them,” Rear Adm. Brett Mietus, director of the Navy Culture and Force Resilience Workplace, told reporters in February.

“Our target is that absolutely everyone in our excellent Navy develops a shared understanding about how to conduct mental well being preventative upkeep for our men and women, and then exactly where to go for more sources,” he mentioned.

Kiggans mentioned she hopes the legislation sends the message that the Navy is prioritizing sailor’s mental properly-becoming, just as it does their physical properly-becoming, but acknowledged the status quo is insufficient and encouraged the Navy to assume “outside the box” on options to address mental well being therapy.

A single selection the service is weighing, she noted, is instruction corpsmen to grow to be certified counselors to offer a “daily source” of mental well being care therapy for sailors.

“I want the Navy leadership to know that they require to place some of these alterations in spot,” Kiggans mentioned. “We can do far better for our sailors and all of our military males and ladies. We shouldn’t place them in a predicament exactly where they’re obtaining to fight or to struggle with their mental well being care.”

Some elements of the legislation are expecxted to be rolled into the FY24 defense authorization bill, she mentioned, when the rest will go by way of the usual committee processes for approval.

More co-sponsors of the legislation include things like: Reps. Jill Tokuda, D-Hawaii David Joyce, R-Ohio Jennifer McClellan, D-Va. and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.

Kiggans, who became a board-certified adult-geriatric principal care nurse practitioner following her Navy vareer, mentioned these mental well being sources are yet another tool to retain sailors combat prepared.

“We have adversaries in the globe and that is the goal of the military — to fight wars,” she mentioned. “So, I want them to be prepared on all fronts — with their physical well being, their mental well being and just their capacity to have the appropriate sources, weapons — what ever it is that they require to be in a position to have that fight.

“This bill just addresses a single element of that so they are combat prepared.”

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