NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A spokesperson with the U.S. Navy has confirmed a fourth sailor assigned to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) at Naval Station Norfolk has died by suicide.
Following an inquiry from 10 On Your Side, a public affairs specialist with MARMC confirmed the fourth death in the last month.
“The circumstances surrounding these separate incidents are currently under investigation by local police departments and the U.S. Navy,” the spokesperson told 10 On Your Side.
“We mourn the loss of our shipmates and friends. Our thoughts and our deepest condolences are with these sailors’ families, loved ones, and coworkers during this extremely difficult time,” the spokesperson said. “We remain fully engaged with our sailors and their families to ensure their health and well-being, and to ensure a climate of trust that encourages sailors to ask for help.”
The spokesperson added that leadership, chaplains, psychologists, and counselors are providing support and counseling to those MARMC grieving and to anyone in need of help.
10 On Your Side reported on the first three deaths in November. Multiple sources stated that the suicides happened over the course of 16 days.
Kayla Arestivo is a licensed counselor and co-founder of Trails of Purpose. Navy personnel asked Arestivo to speak to the command as an independent resource during two mental health standdowns in mid-November.
At that time, three sailors had died by suicide. Arestivo confirmed that the fourth sailor died by suicide on Saturday while they were on leave for Thanksgiving.
“What we need to recognize is that there is a hairpin trigger potentially happening, where people are so far stressed, so far broken, so far worn down, that then that escalation happens because they’re already at that triggering point,” Arestivo said.
In previous correspondence, a spokesperson stated that MARMC is not attached to a ship and that some of the sailors in the command are on limited duty.
Arestivo said sailors are put on limited duty when circumstances restrict them from performing aspects of their military service. Those restrictions can be physical, mental, or circumstantial. Sailors who are put on limited duty are sometimes in the process of medically retiring.
“The responses that we’re seeing from MARMC with the increased presence of chaplains and mental health counselors, that is something that, in my opinion that as knowing they were on limited duty, should have been put into place a very long time ago,” Arestivo said.
Arestivo has been providing free mental health treatment to military servicemembers and veterans in Hampton Roads since 2019 through her nonprofit organization, Trails of Purpose. The organization is currently working with sailors from MARMC who have chosen to seek treatment outside of the Navy.
She said Trails of Purpose is one of many mental health providers ready and willing to help sailors in Hampton Roads.
“If you are in the Hampton Roads area, and you are feeling any bit just uneasy in life, and you need support in any way, we are here for you. We do not report back to command. We do not have any fees. We want to just help you, and help you remember that you’re a human,” she said.
The deaths at MARMC come months after another Naval command was in the news for high numbers of suicides. Over the course of a year, seven sailors stationed on USS George Washington died by suicide. Three of those deaths happened this summer.
Arestivo said friends and families can support their sailors and loved ones by diligently checking in on them. She said if a person expresses suicidal thoughts or ideations, they should be taken to the hospital immediately.
“Asking do you feel safe? Do you feel like you have thoughts of harming yourself? I want to keep you safe. How can we do that? If you don’t feel like you are getting an answer that is genuine or valid, for safety immediately seek external help with the authorities,” she said.
If you or a loved one is in crisis, use these resources to seek help:
- Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988, open 24 hours a day
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
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