Defense

Navy leaders stress mental health in visit to USS George Washington

AP/Silvia Izquierdo
The USS George Washington.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday on Tuesday stressed the importance of mental health during their visit to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, the ship grappling with a string of deaths.

Del Toro held discussions with crew members who were broken up by rank, while Gilday walked the ship to speak with sailors and observe the living conditions aboard the ship, the Navy said in a statement.

The service said the leaders stressed “the importance of Sailors on the deck plate looking out for and taking care of each other.”

“Depression is a killing disease and we must continue to do more,” Gilday said in a statement. “I share in your sorrow and loss, together let the remembrance of those our Navy has lost to the tragedy of suicide, fuel our drive and dedication to increase mental health awareness and support.”

The George Washington has been docked in Newport News, Va., since 2017 for a multiyear refueling and complex overhaul.

The Navy has been under pressure to address conditions on the ship after it acknowledged that seven of its sailors assigned died within the past year, including three suicides within a week in April.

Some of the incidents are currently under investigation, but Del Toro and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week acknowledged the service needed to look into the challenges of housing sailors that are assigned to ships undergoing multiyear repair.

The Navy has taken steps to alleviate hardships on the ship, including expanding access to mental health resources and moving nearly 300 sailors to off-ship accommodations. In its statement, the service said it was looking into what more could be done.

The purpose of the visit was to “hear firsthand from everyone on board the challenges they are facing,” Del Toro said in a statement.

“We want the crew’s feedback and recommendations so we can continue to take immediate actions to improve their quality of life and the availability of mental health care services,” he said.

Tags Carlos Del Toro Carlos Del Toro George Washington Lloyd Austin Mike Gilday Mike Gilday Navy USS George Washington

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