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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)
NECC emphasizes importance of mental health awareness, raises awareness about suicide prevention
by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mailani Jones
05 October 2023
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA --
Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) provides support for its Sailors through reinforcing the importance of taking care of mental health and offering tools for managing care through prevention. Suicide is one of the Navy’s top three causes of death annually. Sailors may struggle with the stressors of life in the military, including experiencing a lack of belonging and perceiving themselves as a burden to others.
“Not too long ago, I was associated with a command as a civilian that unfortunately experienced a suicide,” said Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Dania Funk, NECC lead suicide prevention coordinator. “The feeling that Sailors shared with me after the fact made me realize we could benefit from improvements.”
As NECC’s lead suicide prevention coordinator, Funk is able to provide the community with a variety of resources, programs, support and services to help them navigate stress and challenges.
Some of the resources her team provides include the Suicide Prevention Handbook, the Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life (SAIL) program and the Fiscal Year 2024 Suicide Prevention Toolkit for suicide prevention coordinators.
“I hope to improve command focus on programs designed to support mental health in Sailors,” said Funk.
The NECC suicide prevention team consists of two suicide prevention coordinators, including Force Psychologist, Cmdr. James Keener, and the Recovery Care Management Program lead, Chief Master-at-Arms Robert Jones. Keener, who served as an operational psychologist with special operations forces for 13 years, strives to provide world-class psychological care for Sailors.
“I cannot emphasize enough, that suicide prevention happens at the deck plates and requires proactive engagement from those who lead Sailors,” said Keener.
Keener and Jones stressed the importance of being fully engaged with Sailors and proactive with trainings and outreach for suicide prevention. They emphasized the significance of self-care and looking out for your shipmates.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility at the command to pay attention,” said Jones. “Suicide prevention coordinators can’t be everywhere all at once, so noticing changes in someone you work with everyday is critical so that we can help them as best as we can.” Jones, who became a suicide prevention coordinator in 2016 while working for base police at Naval Station Norfolk, believes that to be an effective coordinator, you must “listen to understand,” and be actively involved in learning all aspects of suicide prevention.
“We[master-at-arms] are normally the first responders when an incident takes place,” said Jones. “So taking on the duty of suicide prevention coordinator was second nature. I’m thankful for being in this position, and I hope to be able to help as many people as I can and continue to spread awareness.”
For more information about mental health management and suicide prevention, Sailors can reach out to the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, or Military One Source online at militaryonesource.com.