The Navy has also started a new initiative to station chaplains aboard its destroyers. Destroyers, often called the workhorses of the Navy, carry crews of around 200 sailors each.
While chaplains primarily manage religious ministry programs, they also provide confidential counseling to sailors, according to Force Chaplain Capt. Richard Ryan.
“We’re able to see them as often as they want to be seen and help them through these issues,” Ryan said.
Not all destroyers have full-time chaplains yet, but Ryan said those that do are proving the need is there.
In 2022, Destroyers with full-time chaplains saw an average of 31 sailors a month, Ryan said. On destroyers that relied on part-time chaplains, fewer than three sailors a month received counseling.
Sailors on one of the San Diego base’s piers said news about the resources available has reached them on the deckplates.
“Every time I talk to one of my sailors, I let them know if they need a chaplain, or they need to go to medical, that’s something available to them all the time,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Hintsala, a hull technician and workcenter supervisor stationed on the littoral combat ship Santa Barbara.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Dacia Chupp said that in the three years she’s been in the Navy, the service’s attitude toward mental health has changed.
“They communicate more now and they make it more known we can go to them or other people if we need to,” said Chupp, who works as a boatswain’s mate on the amphibious transport dock Somerset.
Twenty-nine destroyers now have full time chaplains on board and the Navy said it plans to fully staff the rest of its destroyer fleet over the next two years.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 988.
CrisisText Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.
This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans.