Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest

SILVERDALE, Wash. – Have you heard of the Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life (SAIL) Program? SAIL is a voluntary approach to intervention. It uses evidence-based tools, the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Safety Plan to monitor the needs of Sailors who accept the program.

SAIL provides rapid assistance, ongoing risk management, care coordination and
reintegration assistance for service members identified with a suicide-related behavior. SAIL is not designed to replace existing services and is not a form of treatment. It is designed to supplement mental health treatment by providing continuous caring contacts throughout the critical first 90 days after a suicide related behavior.

The Fleet and Family Readiness Regional Program Director in Silverdale, Washington, Karen Boeve, describes SAIL as “a voluntary program designed to assist Sailors who have experienced suicidal thoughts. We provide outreach and caring contacts with sailors, helping them navigate the healthcare system to ensure they get the best possible care.”

When a Sailor is identified as having suicide related behavior, a few things happen. Their command issues a situational report, and the command suicide prevention coordinator will send the Sailor’s contact information to the Navy Suicide Prevention Branch (OPNAV N171). OPNAV N171 will record the Sailor’s information and forward it to Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC). CNIC will then send the information to the appropriate Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC).

Once the FFSC has the Sailor’s information, they will contact the Sailor within 24 hours. The Sailor will be invited to participate in the SAIL program. FFSC will contact the Sailor at three, seven, 14, 30, 60 and 90 days after the initial contact. Another part of FFSC’s responsibility is to conduct an appropriate assessment and develop a safety plan for the Sailor, and ensure they are connected to the appropriate services. FFSC will assist in reducing any barriers to treatment; and they will provide ongoing care to the Sailor.

There are numerous benefits to the Sailor, including: ongoing caring contacts, safety planning and assessments, assistance in coordinating services and help in navigating those systems, and help with reintegration within the command.

“By maintaining a line of communication and coordinating care services, we can reduce the risk of future suicide attempts,” said Boeve.

The SAIL program also has command benefits. There will be an additional point of contact monitoring the Sailor’s care and will provide resources for that Sailor. The command will receive updates on the Sailor’s progress and help with reintegrating the Sailor back into the command.

“The program launched in Naval Region Northwest on Aug. 29, 2016 and commands and sailors are reaching out for assistance,” said Boeve.

Even though 85 percent of Sailors say they will seek help if overwhelmed by stress, two out of three believe there are barriers to seeking help, and one in three believe their shipmates will see them as weak (source: 2012 Behavioral Health QuickPoll).

“Suicide prevention requires ongoing efforts to promote health and a sense of
community,” said the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Vice Adm. Robert Burke. “It is a shared responsibility.”

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