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At least 5 comrades of the USS George Washington died by suicide last year

At least five US sailors served on the same aircraft carrier in Virginia died by suicide last year, including 3 deaths within a week earlier this month, military officials said on Thursday.

The string of suicides by the sailors of the USS George Washington may indicate a larger mental health problem, and it comes less than three years after a similar suicide aboard another Navy ship, experts say. .

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Thursday: “Every death is tragic, no matter what. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the families and, frankly, the shipmates because they have been affected too.”

On April 9, Retail Service Specialist 3rd Rank Mika’il Rayshawn Sharp His mother, Natalie Jefferson, reportedly died by suicide off base in Portsmouth. The next day, third-class interior electrician Natasha Huffman also died by suicide off base in Hampton, according to the Navy and the state’s main medical examiner’s office.

Image: Mika'il Rayshawn Sharp
Mika’il Rayshawn Sharp.US Navy via Natalie Jefferson

On April 15, a sailor was found unresponsive aboard the USS George Washington, Navy lieutenant colonel Cmdr. Robert Myers said. The identity of the sailor has not been released, but the cause of death was suicide, an army official said.

Details of two other suicides in the past 12 months were not immediately clear.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and local authorities are still investigating the deaths of three people in April, the Navy said. Those three shipmates worked in different departments, Myers said. There are about 2,700 sailors serving on the carrier, he added.

Kirby warned against “rushing to conclusions” about what could have caused the sailors of the USS George Washington to take their own lives.

“It’s human nature to just want to point at something and say, ‘Well, that’s why. It’s this issue, or this culture, or it’s because the ship is doing this instead of that,” he said. “What forces an individual to accept their own life, is personal, and it is complicated.”

The news comes less than three years after a similar series of suicides by the Navy. In 2019, three sailors served on the USS George HW Bush die by suicide The Navy said at the time within a week in isolated cases off-base.

Jefferson, who lives with Sharp in Norfolk, Virginia, said she doesn’t think she has reason to worry about her son’s mental health. She said Sharp, a 23-year-old newlywed, must have concealed his hardship every day he came home from work.

“He was the life of the party,” she said. “He never showed his pain.”

Jefferson urged other military members to seek help, whether from family and friends, other shipmates or military resources.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone,” she said, “because the last thing any parent wants to do is bury their child.”

The Navy says it has dispatched a special psychiatric rapid intervention team to advise servicemen The aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

Navy officials say suicide is one of the three annual causes of death for the Navy. New information posted about it Support Navy Sailors and Life Intercept program to help active sailors contemplating suicide.

“Many Sailors contemplating suicide or struggle refuse to seek help,” the news release said. “When asked, they believe they will get the help they need but are also afraid of being treated differently, distrusting leadership and having their careers negatively affected.”

In 2020, the most recent year for which full data is available, 580 military members died by suicide, up 16% from 2019, when 498 people died by suicide, according to the report. Department of Defense. Nineteen out of 100,000 Navy sailors die by suicide in 2020, compared with members of the Army, who have the highest rate, around 36 per 100,000, Pentagon statistics show.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME at 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for more resources.

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