(Tribune News Service) — The mental health system aboard the USS George Washington is “overwhelmed” and sailors have little understanding of alternatives, according to a Navy investigation into the suicides of three sailors.
In May, the Navy began an investigation into April’s fatality, interviewing senior medical officers and sailors aboard the aircraft carrier undergoing overhaul at the Newport News shipyard. An investigation into the suicides of three sailors assigned to the USS George Washington found the deaths to be unrelated, but a nearly 60-page report released on December 19 revealed Washington’s psychology Academics and behavioral health technologists – Psy Boss and Psy Tech – found they were “overwhelmed.” It struggled to keep up with demand for services.
From January 2021 to January 2022, the ship reported encounters with approximately 2,600 mental health patients with a psyche boss, a behavioral health technician, and two substance abuse rehabilitation program counselors. It was unclear how many sailors sought mental health services, as “patient encounters” could mean that one sailor was seen multiple times.
Of the three Washington sailors who committed suicide in April, only 24-year-old Natasha Huffman was a patient on Washington’s mental health team.
Psycheboss and Psychetec reported a “considerable backlog” of initial appointments, despite each seeing as many as 20 patients a day. This means it can take up to six weeks to get your first mental health appointment.
“(Senior Medical Officer) and Psych Boss were considering switching from individual-based therapy to group therapy to deal with the high volume, but group therapy “has not worked well in the past.” , did not choose,” the report said. .
Washington-ridden leadership increased demand for mental health services.
The Navy has sponsorship and mentorship programs to connect sailors with leadership that guides them through their assimilation into the new command. However, the survey found that multiple sailors aboard the carrier reported having no leadership, and that the leadership was unwilling or uncomfortable discussing mental health issues with younger sailors.
“Psych Tech said that ‘leadership’, especially the leading non-commissioned officer (LPO), ‘has no time’ to address the mental health issues of their subordinates, and that Psych Boss and Psych Tech We would like to introduce them to ,” reads the report.
Washington’s medical team was overwhelmed, but the resilience counselors in place were “underutilized.”
Resiliency counselors had seen only 46 patients between January 2021 and January 2022 at an offsite location three miles from the aircraft carrier. Deployed Resiliency Counselors are private clinicians who provide short-term, confidential, non-medical counseling while seafarers are deployed. at the port.
“Interviewed seafarers generally noted that resilience counselors in place were an available resource that did not readily share patient information, and that information shared with the DRC was not entered into the seafarers’ military health records. We were not aware of it,” the report said.
Additionally, multiple sailors interviewed during the investigation did not know who the resilience counselors in place were or where they were located. But those whose counselors knew he was three miles away from the carrier were “hesitated (or didn’t believe they could) take so much time to get there.” said the report.
Following the suicide, the Navy assigned additional recovery counselors to Washington, this time putting them on board the aircraft carrier. The ship also has three chaplains who can provide emotional and spiritual guidance.
The survey contains numerous proposals, some of which have already been implemented.
“Recommendations such as adding mental health counselors and improving the welcome process for new sailors are underway. We are improving our program,” said Capt. Dave Hecht, spokesman for the U.S. Fleet.
The Navy is also considering reviewing the adequacy of mental health care and practitioner staffing on ships entering complex refueling and overhauls to better balance staffing and demand, according to initial research. We are also considering requesting the military entry processing command to review the navy’s initial enlistment. Psychological Aptitude Screening Process.
“This process is not intended to prevent individuals from entering the Navy, but rather to identify those who may be at risk of psychological distress. , should focus on proactive action to identify unresolved and/or untreated disorders and develop treatment plans to help seafarers better adjust to the challenging environment of naval service.
Psychological compatibility screening recommendations are a risk management tool used by commanders to define, identify, manage, and supervise high-risk sailors, as the Navy aligns this effort with the Marine Corps High-Risk Sailor Identification Initiative. was modified to suggest developing a Effectively and transparently within the command and during the transfer process.
However, these recommendations, and others intended to strengthen mental health and support resources, recreational programs, and command mentorship initiatives, are not intended to be used in the command environment and quality of service unique to shipyards. It is being evaluated as part of a second, broader study evaluating the challenge. environment is ongoing.
“The results of this service quality study will be published in the coming months, and we expect this to have a positive impact on seafarers and their families,” said Hecht.
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