Three sailors assigned to a single aircraft carrier died by suicide in just one week, the U.S. Navy told NBC News on Wednesday.
All three deaths occurred off-base of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier and happened in separate instances, according to a Navy spokeswoman.
Aviation Ordnanceman First Class Vincent Forline was found dead Sept. 14, while Chief Electronics Technician Nuclear James Shelton and Airman Ethan Stuart were found dead Sept. 19, said Cdr. Jennifer Cragg, public affairs officer for Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.
There is no indication that the deaths of the sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier, which is stationed off the coast of Virginia, are connected, including the two that happened on the same day, Cragg said. She added that the sailors did not serve in the same departments.
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Their deaths bring the total number of suicides of sailors assigned to the carrier in the past two years to five, including one as recently as July of this year. A special psychiatric rapid intervention team, or SPRINT, is on board to counsel the shipmates of those who died, Cragg said.
In a Facebook post, the commanding officer of the USS George H. W. Bush, Capt. Sean Bailey, said his heart was "broken."
"We need All Hands to engage by bringing forward your suggestions and ideas for how we can work together to prevent another suicide. I want to reiterate that there is never any stigma or repercussion from seeking help," he wrote, adding that chaplains, psychologists and counselors are available "on board at all times to provide support and counseling to those grieving."
The deaths, which were first reported by the Navy Times, come amid a worsening nationwide suicide epidemic and happened during National Suicide Prevention Month.
Service members in the Navy have a higher-than-average rate of suicide compared to civilians: The annual rate of suicide among those serving in the Navy is 20.1 per 100,000 people, according to 2017 statistics from the Department of Defense, the latest figures available. Among civilians that year, the rate was 14 per 100,000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
On Navy.mil's homepage is a prominent link to the Veterans Crisis Line, which offers tips from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
Cragg called the latest deaths "devastating."
"Every death of a Sailor is devastating and affects our entire Navy Family. Our thoughts and condolences are with the family, friends, and shipmates of the Sailors. As a crew and as a family they are grieving; they are supporting each other, and are comforting those in need," she said in a statement.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.