NORFOLK, Va.

In September, Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Naval Station Norfolk displayed the “Have you seen the boots?” initiative. The display consisted of 79 pairs of combat boots to remember the 79 service members who were lost to suicide in 2018. Along with the pairs of boots were handwritten notes from loved ones and peers of the fallen individuals and others who wanted to share words of encouragement.

During the month, the display moved from BHC Norfolk to multiple commands and community organizations throughout the Hampton Roads area, giving the community the opportunity to leave notes for those lives lost.

“We’ve had 70 to 75 notes left for people who have passed away because of suicide,” said Peggy Smith, Health Promotions nurse educator. “Individuals have also left notes of encouragement for the families and friends left behind. My hope is that the notes bring healing to our community.”

The boots arrived back to BHC Norfolk in October to be put away until next year. Although Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is over, the fight for the prevention of losing a loved one doesn’t stop there. Suicide is a serious public health problem that affects many people of all ages and demographics. It is vital to keep shedding light on awareness of such tragedy.

“We need to make sure people know that help is available 24/7; not just the month of September,” Smith said. “Suicide does not know age, race, or socioeconomic status. It does not know if you have graduated high school or have multiple college degrees. It doesn't care if you are famous, an athlete or a world traveler. Suicide crosses all boundaries and devastates everyone that it comes into contact with. Suicide is preventable.”

As the U.S. Navy's oldest, continuously-operating hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally acclaimed, state of the art medical center, including its ten branch and TRICARE Prime clinics, serves the Hampton Roads area and additionally offers premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsmen for future roles in healing and wellness.

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