New Navy guidance emphasizes leadership responsibility for seafarers’ mental health Maritime India News

Sailors man the rails as USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) returns to Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, after its deployment in the western Pacific December 16, 2022. US Navy photo

The Navy has issued what it calls a technical handbook for naval leaders to address mental health, beginning with specifying how commanders should conduct interviews with seafarers.

The Navy’s “Mental Health Playbook,” released days after the Department of Defense Suicide Committee recommendations were released, provides commanders with information on how to raise the issue of mental health with their seafarers and help them allocate resources for assistance find. It is intended to be read and used like a technical manual.

“It starts with the climate our leaders create and how you lead the people in your care. Navy-wide we need to embrace the idea of ​​preventative maintenance for our people,” reads the script released this week.
“Most of us know that preventive maintenance is necessary for our equipment and machines. Today it is just as if not more important to apply this term to our employees.”

The script does not deal with broader changes in the military, as the Suicide Committee recommendation did, but rather with working within the current system.

Discussions about mental health in the military are nothing new, with leaders talking about the need for increased attention and services in recent years. On Tuesday, Master Chief Petty Officer James Honea appeared before a budget appropriations subcommittee to discuss quality of life in the military, where he said mental health was an ongoing priority.

What the playbook does is is a guide for leaders to interview seafarers and refer them to available services, including professional mental health care and Navy resources.

According to the playbook, naval leaders have three responsibilities: providing an environment in which conversations can take place, watching for signs that seafarers are at risk, and helping seafarers receive services while still being able to remain in the fleet.

The playbook is intended to be a response to challenges voiced by seafarers, including access to services, Rear Admiral Brett Mietus, director of the Navy Culture and Force Resilience Office, said during a Monday press briefing.

The number one stressor in the Navy right now is fatigue, Honea testified.

“We’re working really, really hard on our squad and we’re going to have to keep doing that,” Honea said. “So I have to create environments that allow for a little more positivity.”

Manning also impacts mental health, Commander, Navy Installations Command Force Master Chief Jason Dunn told reporters. Sailors worry about taking time off to get help as it increases the workload on their teammates, he said.

“We have to reiterate the fact that it’s okay, not just for the opportunity to take a knee, but also during reintegration, and then to counter that to all the executives and the boss’s mess to create that climate in their departments and departments Make sure they welcome people back and it’s not with a negative connotation,” Dunn said.

For managers, the second section of the guide sets out how to engage in dialogue with their seafarers. It encourages them to find a time during the day to check in with seafarers, demonstrates how to actively listen during conversations and reminds them to show empathy.

“Psychiatric professionals, counselors and chaplains are trained to have difficult conversations with those they serve. It’s a bigger challenge for the rest of us,” the playbook said. “The person in need may not be ready, and they may not want to open up no matter what you do.”

Having these conversations is necessary because with one in five Americans diagnosed with a mental illness, the playbook says it’s likely they have seafarers who have mental health issues. A 2022 meta-analysis study published in the leading journal Nature, looked at 192 studies and found that a third of the people in the study had lost their blood by April 14.

Training is part of the next step, Mietus told reporters. It is integrated into managerial training, which is provided as part of managerial development.

The guide also talks about how commanders can connect seafarers with other services, including professional mental health services. It recognizes the stigma carried by some in naval service that receiving assistance can interfere with their career aspects.

“Unfortunately, the stigma associated with getting help for a mental illness or disorder is historically ingrained in our culture. As a leader, you should explicitly let people know it’s okay to ask for help,” the playbook said.

While it encourages Commanders to address this stigma, it also reminds them that they have the option of calling a provider to give them additional information about the Sailors, with a reminder to tell the Sailor they’ll be in touch first , adding that if not, it can damage trust between guide and sailor.

“COs should know that they are not subject to such restrictions when communicating with medical providers,” the playbook states. “Orders are RECOMMENDED to contact providers with contextual information that may affect the treatment team’s understanding, treatment plan and disposition for this seafarer. (sic) Communications may include seafarer-specific factors such as an uncharacteristic outburst or ongoing disciplinary factors.”

Under DODI 6094.08The military exemptions from HIPAA allow providers to notify embedded medical providers — or a commander if there is no such provider — about a seafarer if they fall under nine circumstances, including the risk of harming themselves, to others, or to the mission.

Normalizing mental health and treatment is important for the Navy, Mietus told reporters.

Encouraging conversations and showing leaders how to conduct them helps fight the stigma attached to it, he said.

At the same time, the Naval Service wants to be able to connect sailors to needed services while keeping them in the fleet. That’s where communication with vendors comes in, he said. It is designed to prevent a person from being sent to help and then an embarrassment when they come. Instead, it would be more of a seamless transition.

A person may also not need medical advice, but rather life management skills or help, said Leslie Gould, director of CNIC’s fleet and family preparedness programs. The Navy offers a variety of programs and the Playbook allows leaders to obtain information to direct their Sailors to other programs in addition to guidance.

Seafarers joining the fleet are members of Gen-Z, who are typically more open to talking about mental health than seafarers from the older generations, like the baby boomers, Mietus said. Millennials are also more open to such discussions.

The Navy must be able to adapt to accommodate the changing fleet composition, Dunn said.

“So it’s critical that we consider some of these developments and changes in people’s values ​​and needs so that we can be effective leaders and connect with our workforce,” he said.

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