Balancing Coast Guard service, a family, and personal needs can be hard. Coast Guard members spend months at sea or deployed from home, and long hours in their service to the Nation. Many Coast Guard members are young, living far from home for the first time. And many people don’t reach out for help when it is needed or don’t recognize others who are in crisis.
The Coast Guard has a variety of programs to assist service members. And since 2019, the Coast Guard Foundation has worked with the Coast Guard to build mental resiliency among its members and strong families throughout its community. One program trains Coast Guard chaplains nationwide in a curriculum they can use to help families connect and build positive, supportive relationships.
Thanks to a private donation of $50,000, last year the Coast Guard Foundation initiated a pilot program in the Northeast to assist Coast Guard leaders develop a comprehensive approach to member and family resiliency. The program tackled the problem on multiple fronts: its impact on individual members, their families, and the Coast Guard unit as a whole.
These pilot programs have been an unqualified success. They have also demonstrated how large the need for resiliency support is among Coast Guard members. We are grateful for the Coast Guard Foundation’s help in expanding these programs that keep Coast Guard members and families strong.
The program includes:
- Shipmate Support Peer Training: Suicide prevention and intervention assists Coast Guard members in crisis and connects them with peer supports. When there’s a need for higher levels of care, referral resources are available. In 2021, 37 Shipmate Support Peers received training, with specific focus on the ASIST training module. An additional 30 members will be trained in 2022.
- Resiliency Retreats: Eighteen members attended a mountain climbing resiliency retreat. Some of the participants had recently lost a shipmate to suicide. The retreat was critical to their mental wellness in the face of the loss.
- Marriage Retreats: Eleven couples from two units attended a marriage retreat in November to work on building a strong relationship. The interest is high for these retreats, and chaplains throughout the Northeast are planning additional sessions for Coast Guard couples.
The Coast Guard Foundation is committed to supporting these programs and is engaging donors to fund a national program. Coast Guard units in California are adopting these ideas in their own region and the program was the subject during a recent planning meeting between senior Foundation and Coast Guard leaders in Washington. DC.