November 3, 2015

Increase in Stress Management for Submariners

Australian submariner and recruiter, Olivia Brown, speaks to Mamamia magazine (Photo courtesy Mamamia) about submarine life (see below). Her sailor's cap indicates she is based at HMAS Stirling - not a ship or sub but Australia's Fleet Base West at which all six of Australia's Collins subs are based.

Stress management is a growing area throughout the defence forces of Western countries. The unusual stresses and responsibilities of submarine service even in "peacetime" makes stress management particularly important.

A sound stress management program has many benefits including:

-  improving attractiveness of recruitment and subsequent retention of submariners

-  improving occupational health and safety

-  improving morale and security.

On the stresses of submariner life Submarine Matters reported on Royal Navy finding it Difficult to Recruit Submariners, October 1, 2015.

40 seconds into this July 2014 Youtube Chief of the Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, indicates he wants to make the Navy a better place in which to work.

On the RAN and mental health - this October 29, 2015 promise in the Navy Daily is of interest "Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, was among many Defence personnel to mark Defence Mental Health Month by leading by example and making a public personal mental health promise." 

Interesting 2014 reddit Navy forum comments on Depression and Submarines (seems mainly US Navy). 

A Mamamia April 27, 2015 interview with Olivia Brown, RAN submariner and recruiter. Most relevant answer "Being at sea can be very full on – long periods away, disrupted sleep cycles, no sunlight for long periods… At the same time [it is] a very fulfilling work environment – sometimes you want your work to be challenging and ever-changing. Ashore, our job I guess is more stable, however it can be mundane and involve a more typical work environment like a normal desk job. Personally I don’t mind being at sea, not sure my partner would agree with that though. Obviously due to the environment we work in, we do get paid considerably more when we are on sea rotation so there is that factor as well."


On US Navy stress management see this article by Michael Melia of Associated Press, via the US military's Stars and Stripes, November 1, 2015

"Navy submarine force increases stress-management services"

GROTON, Conn. — The U.S. Navy's elite submarine force is stepping up stress-management services for its sailors, responding in part to elevated numbers of unexpected dropouts among younger service members.

A psychiatrist at Naval Submarine Base New London, Navy Capt. Steven Wechsler, has been meeting with sailors for the last three months at his office on the waterfront, going aboard submarines to introduce himself, and giving talks on issues surrounding deployments. The idea is to engage sailors who might be reluctant to seek out mental health professionals at a military clinic and keep them focused.

It's a model that the Navy intends to replicate at its six other homeports for submarines in Virginia, Georgia, Hawaii, Washington state, southern California and Guam.

Wechsler himself served in the submarine force for years, and he said that experience helps put sailors at ease. He understands the challenges that come with spending weeks at a time inside a cramped metal tube on stealthy missions, with limited communication home to loved ones.

"When the hatch is shut, that hatch is shut. They are contained within that environment," Wechsler said. "Somebody who is maybe a little more introverted is going to run into difficulty because they're in close proximity to other people all the time."

Options for exercise - one of the more popular stress relievers - are limited not only by space, but also concerns about banging around and making noise that could give up a sub's location. So Wechsler works with sailors on other strategies to improve resilience.

The Navy also has been working to overcome a stigma attached to mental health treatment, and officials say the submarine force's approach - a doctor "embedded" on the waterfront - is among several taken by various military communities.

A spokesman for the submarine force, Cmdr. Tommy Crosby, said the new services stem partly from the leadership's recognition of needs among a younger generation of sailors, as highlighted by a higher rate of dropouts - or "unplanned losses" - for mental health reasons. Other submarine force officials have described tendencies among millennials to include more reliance on feedback and less adaptability to setbacks compared to an older generation.

The submarine force's top enlisted sailor, Force Master Chief Wesley Koshoffer, said mental health issues have arisen for some younger sailors when they first encounter significant stress from a failed relationship, failure of a test, or discipline. He said the Navy has been investing more in teaching coping skills, building mentorship programs and other efforts to give sailors confidence to succeed.

The Navy ran a pilot mental health program a few years ago in Norfolk, Virginia, to see if it could cut down on the dropouts. After a year when submarine crews out of Norfolk had 22 "unplanned losses" for mental health reasons, the program cut that number in the following year in 14, according to Capt. Matthew Hickey, the submarine force's chief medical officer.

Wechsler said he has seen the vast majority of his patients return to duty.

"I can be there immediately when they're having a bad day as opposed to letting that bad day fester and develop a symptomatic response," he said."



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

This article is quite interesting, as our country, Japan is behind the curve on application of psychology or psychiatry to the society than America. Japan has many things to learn from America. I understand the stress management service as one of the risk management systems. Confirmation of effectiveness of the service will be very important.


Peter Coates said...

Hi S

Yes stress management is essential for submariners in all Navies especially when their typical missions are long. I added these comments.

The unusual stresses and responsibilities of submarine service even in "peacetime" makes stress management particularly important. The degree of stress and risk can be particularly high for submariners in some "peacetime" missions.

A sound stress management program has many benefits including:

- improving attractiveness of recruitment and subsequent retention of submariners

- improving occupational health and safety

- improving morale and security.



Vigilis said...

Hello Pete

To understand how deplorable mental health issues infecting an elite submarine force have become, one must contrast the scope of today's problem with that of submariners who served the U.S. Navy during actual war:

(1) Mental health issues account for about 30 percent of the unplanned losses — where sailors leave the fleet for reasons other than normal rotation or temporary assigned duty, U.S. Force Master Chief Wes Koshoffer said [dated 2015].

(2) "Despite the hazards under which submarine crews lived and fought, the actual psychiatric casualty rate was amazingly low. Of 126,160 man patrols there were 62 psychiatric casualties--an incidence of only 0.00041 per man patrol." source: Joseph L. Schwartz, Captain (MC) USN (Retired).

What has happened can be traced directly to our public school systems, which have been regulated and gradually propagandized by Education Department globalists in Washington, D.C.. Consequently, many clueless Millenials strive to be "gender nuetral" specimen rather than stand-up men. This outcome is beyond artificial and has endured for so long that it has become ingrained for life.

Millenial women easily measure up as equals or betters of our new low in Millenial "male" self esteem. Their elders are a voting majority in the U.S. They are the chief educational propagandists, arbiters of "politically correct" speech", workplace litigants, and increasingly responsible for the kinds of crimes once exclusive to bad men. Now, some of these pleasant women serve in sub crews, too.

During my Cold War submarine service, only one man aboard any sub I knew of, ever developed a mental issue. The supposed crisis served him well in getting out of arduous nuclear propulsion duty. Looking back, it was very suspicious --- he had been sleeping when a dummy practice torpedo (MK-45) fired by another sub with which we were exercising struck our outer hull at depth adjacent to his rack (leaving a nice dent in our outer hull, as we would later see). He was tranquilized and later sent ashore permanently.

Nucs stood port and starboard watches often at sea and always in port for the duration of my service (normally 3-section rotation). No one blamed the guy for being creative or crazy.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Vigilis

It is probably also more permissable for submariners and Navies to admit there are stress-psychological problems.

Such problems as high divorce rates are one sign of stress - partly caused by increasing economic independence of generally female spouses of submariners.

While ashore heavy drinking might increasingly be seen as an unusual psychological problem rather than the norm.

More identified is the need of 20+ year olds to connect to social media many times a day ("check their Facebook page" etc). Such a need clashes with the no connectivity realty of submarine missions.

So yes, times and perceptions change - to the detriment of submarines.



MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

the German submarines are used to a kind of medical treatment for a long time. This medicine was already known about 10,000 BC: beer.

The stock of beer is controlled by the commander. On several occasions the beer is even paid by the commander like the "Einlaufbier" when the crew left its submarine to hear the last commands after the mission.

This sounds crazy but such kinds of ceremonies keeps the crew together. This is something you hardly can learn from books.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

Beer times are a noble tradition. Beer was encouraged as a moral booster on bases/camps during Australia's war in Vietnam. Much preferable to the illegal drugs American GIs were taking.

Perhaps TKMS could promise "If Australia buys the 216 then 30 years of Munich beer will be supplied" Even the 210mod :)

With just 27 officers/crew in a 212 and as little as 36 in a 216 beer times could most certainly be monitored by the Captain. After all Rum Rations were part of Australia's UK Royal Navy heritage .