By Caitlyn Burchett – The Virginian Pilot
Three sailors assigned to Norfolk’s naval maintenance center have died by suicide in recent weeks.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine confirmed the rash of suicides Monday, which occurred throughout the month of November.
All three sailors were assigned to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center at Naval Station Norfolk. Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center operates under Naval Sea Systems Command to maintain military ships.
Warner’s office is in contact with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center and Kaine’s office is in contact with the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., about the deaths, but were unable to provide additional details. The military has not publicly commented on the deaths.
Kaine said he will raise the issue of the deaths with Naval leadership directly, describing the issue of service member suicides as “an immense challenge” facing the military community.
“I’m heartbroken to learn of the deaths of these three sailors,” Kaine said in a statement to The Virginian-Pilot. “One of my top priorities as the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness is to ensure that every member of our armed forces has access to the mental health services that can save lives.”
Last year, Kaine worked to include the bipartisan Brandon Act — which was named after a Navy sailor who committed suicide on Naval Station Norfolk in 2018 — in the annual armed services funding bill. The act would allow service members to confidentially seek mental health treatment and ensures sailors will not be retaliated against or punished for disclosing mental health struggles. While the act was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021, it has not been implemented by the Department of Defense.
“I’m pushing the Department of Defense to implement the bill as quickly as possible — and working to secure additional mental health resources for our armed forces through this year’s annual defense funding bill — so we can get service members the mental health services they need,” Kaine said.
Warner and Kaine extend their prayers to the sailors’ families and impacted community members.
“The truth is that this time of year can be particularly difficult for the men and women of our armed forces who serve our nation year-round and often have to spend the holidays away from their loved ones,” Warner said in a statement to The Pilot.
Warner reminds sailors that they should never suffer alone or in silence.
“I encourage any sailor who is struggling or considering suicide to reach out to the command suicide prevention coordinator, the Navy Fleet & Family Support Center, the local command chaplain, or Military OneSource,” Warner said.
The recent string of suicides comes eight months after three sailors assigned to the Norfolk-based USS George Washington took their own lives within the span of a week.
Resources for service members and veterans struggling with mental health, including 24-hour crisis hotlines, can be found below:
- The Military Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-8255, ext. 1; or text “273Talk” to 839863
- Military OneSource: 1-800-342-9647
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 — call or text
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Source: American Military News