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Hi All,

I have a question for those who may know more than I about suicide attempts in the navy.  To make a long story short, my son attempted suicide on an aircraft carrier.  I've been in contact with him, the ombudsman, and the chaplain.  An outside source told me the only reason he is not off the boat yet is because they physically can't get him off of it safely.  The chain of command has purposely kept me out of the loop of information.  From my reading, isn't the Red Cross supposed to notify the next of kin of a suicide attempt?  I know he has not talked to the psychologist on board.

Also, are suicide attempts ever "ignored'?  He definitely needs psychiatric care and I am so worried he will not receive that.  I understand he can't be off the boat right now, but nobody will tell me IF he will be hospitalized, what's going on exactly, ect.  Only bits of pieces from each person I talk to come together to form what  I believe is happening.

The navy knows for sure about the attempt and now knows that he has other attempts throughout his navy career.  Nothing before the start of his Navy days, however. 

Can anyone verify, for sure, that he will be transferred to some sort of facility as soon as possible?  Are attempts ever "ignored"?  If a certain amount of time has passed until he can be transported off the boat, will they ever just drop the whole thing?  I am very worried for his safety.  As of now, I do not even know for certain if the attempt has been officially documented.

I am definitely kept out of the loop and have been basically BEGGING for any information from the Red Cross, Ombudsman, Chaplain, ect. 

If anyone has any insights, words of wisdom, ect-- it would be greatly appreciated.

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They are legally required to keep you out of the loop because of the HIPPA and privacy regulations. Your son would have to authorize your involvement. This is standard procedure.

I have never heard that the Red Cross notifies next of kin in such instances. Not saying you didn't read that, just that I've never heard much about it.

The Navy does take suicide attempts very seriously. They certainly don't ignore it! An unstable sailor is a danger. There is probably more going on than they can legally tell you. He is undoubtedly getting help, the situation is probably just complicated because of the deployment.

I'm guessing, but when he comes off the ship, he will likely go to a naval hospital for evaluation. Past that? Treatment and/or discharge, I don't know. If discharged, he can use the VA for continuing treatment.

I hope he recovers swiftly!
My son is an MP = and has responded to a few suicide attempts.....I wouldn't be surprised if he's in the brig (military jail) for his own safety. Atleast then, the MP's can keep an eye on him. I haven't heard of the Salvation Army notifying families either, b/c of privacy laws (HIPPA). He's over the age of 18, so legally they cannot tell you much. I'm sure as soon as they are able too, they will get him off the boat. My thoughts are with you - sounds like he needs some help. I hope he gets it soon.
Thank you Anti M & Kimberly. I guess my main concern is that he will be taken off the boat and receive care in a hospital or outpatient facility. That will for sure happen, whenever possible? There is not a "time limit" on that or anything? Even if months go by and they can't get him off the boat, he will still (eventually) be treated off the boat or discharged? Do they ever keep a suicidal sailor on the boat for any reason besides they cannot safely transport him/her and hospitalize him?

He believes everything is okay, that he's still in the Navy, and it's been overlooked, ect. I'm playing along with that. I guess the alternative would be for him to think he's losing his job. (And him worrying about that would cause more problems, I imagine...)

My main concern is that he will be seen by a professional off the boat as soon as possible. They always do that, correct?

Sorry for all the questions-- haven't been able to find ANYTHING about this online or from the Navy. You have been a big help!
I wish my answers were concrete, but I am mainly going on old experiences and guesswork. I know they don't keep people on the ship if there is a problem of any kind.
He will be given professional treatment prior to any other conclusion being reached. It is a hard and fast policy that is standard throughout the Navy. As for when this happens it will be when he is capable of being safely transported. Until then he will have a constant suicide watch posted on him.

Depending on the determination of the psychologist, they will diagnose his condition and commence treatment. This can be in a variety of different forms, but the most common with a suicide attempt will be an in-patient treatment facility. If his condition can be treated with medication and counseling then a medical board from Navy Mental Health will determine suitability for continued Naval Service.

There is no requirement to notify next of kin unless a death has occurred. In fact in many cases it would be illegal to do so for privacy purposes. The only time that this may occur is if the person is unable to make medical decisions and they require the person designated by living will or legal determination to make those decisions for them.

We give Navy wide suicide prevention training to all Sailors at least annually and upon check in to every new command.

There are also differences in Navy terminology with this topic that mean different things:
Suicide - Intentionally killing oneself.
Suicide Attempt - A potentially self-injurious act with a non-fatal outcome, for which there is at least some intent to die. A suicide attempt may or may not result in injuries.
Suicide Gesture - A potentially self-injurious act with a non-fatal outcome for which there is no evidence of intent to die. A suicide gesture may or may not result in injuries.
Suicidal Ideation - Expressions or thoughts about killing oneself.

The website below has a good summarization of the Navy policy and procedure for suicides. It also gives links to the base document instructions if you want more specific information.

I wish you and your son the best of luck and a speedy recovery.
Very Respectfully,
That website was a great resource. Is there any reason specific reason why he has not seen the psychologist on board? Even though he has not spoke with the psychologist, will he still be taken off the boat to get psychiatric help? I guess that's the part that worries me that most.

My only conclusion is that if they don't want to "make it into a big deal" for him, then they might be skipping the psych eval until he can be removed and hospitalized?
He may have seen the Doctor onboard already and he may have already recommended treatment at an in patient treatment facility. However, I don't know that any ship has a psychologist onboard though... Doctors, counselors, Chaplains, but not a mental health professional, however I am a Submariner and I am not used to having any of those services available while underway.
I am so sorry that you are having to go through this! The Red Cross should be helping you out, as far as the Ombudsman, personally I don't think they are any real help ! If you are that concerned and I would be also I urge you to contact your Congressman and ask for their assistance in finding out any information, you will be surprised at how fast you get anwers !
For some reason the Navy is very tight lipped about stuff like this when they should'nt be where informing the family is concerned. Some times you just have to rock the boat a little to get the info you need. Good luck and God Bless !
So now it's been about 2.5 weeks since the suicide attempt and he still hasn't even been seen by medical. Is this fairly normal? If they can't get them off the boat relatively quickly, do they just transport them as soon as they can and try to keep life as normal as possible until then? Is it normal for the sailor not to know what is going on?

He believes they have dropped it all together and he also believes it hasn't been reported. Although he seems to be doing a little bit better, I still worry about his safety. He mentioned the CMC had talked to him recently but he hasn't talked to anyone from medical, the chaplain again, or any sort of mental health professional. His life seems to be pretty normal and as far as he knows, he's not under any suicide watch or anything like that.

Is there anything I can do to ensure he'll be taken care of? What will going to the congressman do exactly?

I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place with this one. My son tells me next to nothing, the navy doesn't tell me anything, and I'm still worried for his safety.

Thank you everyone.


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