Navy concludes suicides of three sailors assigned to USS George Washington weren’t related

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The Navy’s investigation into the suicides of three sailors assigned to the USS George Washington concluded the deaths weren’t related, however stress associated to life in a shipyard setting was a “contributing issue” in at the very least one of many suicides. 

In April, Grasp-at-Arms Seaman Recruit Xavier Mitchell-Sandor, 19, Inside Communications Electrician third Class Natasha Huffman, 24, and Retail Providers Specialist third Class Mika’il Sharp, 23, died by suicide inside days of each other, elevating questions concerning the situations on ships present process overhauls in addition to entry to psychological well being assets. The investigation mentioned it appeared the dwelling situations aboard the ship was a “contributing issue” in  Mitchell-Sandor’s dying by suicide.

Although the investigation launched Monday concluded the deaths weren’t instantly related and that finally impartial private struggles led every sailor to suicide, it does present extra particulars concerning the situations of shipyard life and the “overwhelming” stress on psychological well being assets. 

The GW has been docked in Virginia since 2017 whereas present process a years-long overhaul that in the long run will prolong the plane provider’s service life however within the brief time period makes components of the ship primarily a development zone. 

Navy Suicides
The nuclear plane provider USS George Washington pier facet at Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., Sept. 30, 2016. 

Steve Helber / AP

Of the three sailors, solely Mitchell-Sandor lived aboard the ship within the months main as much as his dying. Throughout these months, Mitchell-Sandor informed his family and friends he would usually sleep in his automotive as a substitute of the ship as a result of dwelling situations, in line with the investigation. 

The situations included development noises like needle gunning and bells going off along with chilly temperatures and intervals with out sizzling water or energy. 

Mitchell-Sandor discovered it laborious to transition into this setting and assimilate into the Navy. He missed house and often drove hours away to see his girlfriend or household after which, with out sleeping, would drive again for his shifts. The investigation discovered persistent sleep deprivation and fatigue could have affected his judgement and led him to consider suicide was his solely possibility. 

Within the months previous his dying, Mitchell-Sandor was provided a chance to maneuver to a greater location however rejected it. The investigation states extra senior sailors or an assigned mentor ought to have inspired him to take the chance.  

“This was the time for intrusive management,” the investigation mentioned. 

The investigation discovered that it didn’t seem there was an assigned mentor for Mitchell-Sandor or the opposite two sailors. The GW was the primary ship project for all three of the sailors. 

The Navy is conducting a broader investigation into the standard of life aboard ships present process prolonged upkeep intervals in shipyards. That second investigation will present suggestions to handle among the challenges raised within the preliminary investigation. 

The preliminary investigation launched Monday additionally raised considerations concerning the Navy’s bandwidth to offer psychological well being companies. 

Even earlier than the three sailors’ deaths in April 2022, psychological well being suppliers for the GW described the affected person quantity as “overwhelming,” in line with the investigation. 

Of the three sailors, solely Huffman sought psychological well being companies earlier than her dying. 

The investigation steered junior sailors do not all the time really feel comfy in search of help. As an illustration, it acknowledged that “a number of sailors reported management does not need to speak about, or in any other case feels uncomfortable speaking about, psychological well being points with junior sailors.” 

For the reason that three suicides, the Navy has surged further help to the GW to make sure sailors in search of help companies are accommodated. 

“We have now taken a variety of further steps to offer for the care and well-being of our service members however the backside line is that we will, and can, do extra for our Sailors and their households,” mentioned Rear Adm. John F. Meier, commander, Naval Air Pressure Atlantic, in a press release. 

Months after the three GW sailor suicides, 4 sailors assigned to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Upkeep Middle (MARMC) in Norfolk, Virginia, died by suicide inside a month.  

Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin when requested earlier this month concerning the rash of Navy deaths by suicide mentioned, “We all know there is a concern throughout the board for entry to psychological well being, and there is a scarcity of assets, so we’re doing as a lot as we will to put money into the assets and we need to be certain all of our management is doing the precise issues as effectively.”

Service members and veterans who’re in disaster or having ideas of suicide, and those that know a service member or veteran in disaster, can name the Army Disaster Line/Veterans Disaster Line for confidential help 24 hours a day, seven days every week, three hundred and sixty five days a yr. Name 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or textual content 838255 or chat on-line at VeteransCrisisLine.internet/Chat.

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