Navy investigating third possible suicide this year at Naval Base Kitsap
Stars and Stripes November 9, 2023
The Navy is investigating the death of a sailor whose body was found in his residence near Naval Base Kitsap in Washington, service officials said this week.
The death, which happened Oct. 22, has been ruled a suicide by the Kitsap County Medical Examiner’s Office. If confirmed by the Navy, the sailor would be the third suicide at NB Kitsap this year.
The Defense Department reported last month that suicide rates rose 3% between 2021 and 2022, the latest statistics available.
The death of the sailor was confirmed in a statement from the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier on which the deceased sailor served as an aviation boatswains mate airman. The carrier’s homeport is Naval Base Kitsap. It’s currently at sea on a training exercise.
Two other sailors from Kitsap who died this year were suicides, according to local law enforcement officials. The status of the Navy investigations of the previous cases were not available this week.
In April, a petty officer with Submarine Development Squadron 5 was found dead off the base in Silverdale, a town near the submarine base area at Kitsap. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office determined the death was a suicide.
In January, a sailor assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was found dead in the enlisted quarters at the naval station. The Kitsap County Medical Examiner’s Office determined suicide as the cause of death.
Two other USS Theodore Roosevelt crew members were previously reported as suicides during the ship’s 18-month refurbishing at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Kitsap. The 37-year-old Nimitz-class carrier returned in March to its homeport of Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego.
The Department of Defense Annual Report on Suicide in the Military for 2022, which was released Oct. 26, showed the rate of suicides per 100,000 service members was up 3% from the prior year across all services and including active duty, reserve and National Guard members.
While suicide rates fluctuated from year to year, the report found “suicide rates for all services gradually increased from 2011 to 2022.”
The report said the military suicide rate is similar to the general U.S. population when adjusted for age and gender. Young, enlisted men in the military are the most vulnerable to suicide. Self-inflicted gunshot wounds are the leading method of suicide.
The report recorded 331 suicides among active-duty service members in 2022. The Marine Corps had the highest rate of suicides, at 34.9 per 100,000. The Army rate was 34.9, the Navy was 20.7 and the Air Force was 19.7. The Space Force reported no suicides in the period of the report.
The Nimitz statement issued Tuesday said the Navy is “here to support our shipmates and we encourage any sailor who is struggling to seek help and support. Chaplains, psychologists, counselors, and leaders are engaged with the crew and are available on board to provide appropriate support and counseling.
Current and former service members who have thoughts of suicide can contact local mental health hotlines or go online to veteranscrisisline.net/get-help-now/chat.