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Marine Suicides at Ten-Year High

Sergeant Paul Nixon, drill instructor, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, gives a poolee some added incentive to do what he’s told.
Sergeant Paul Nixon, drill instructor, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, gives a poolee some added incentive to do what he’s told. (Photo via USMC)

The Marine Corps reached a 10-year high in suicides and is taking steps toward prevention and outreach.

The Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs revealed that 75 Marines committed suicide in 2018, 57 active duty Marines and 18 reserve Marines. There seems to be no clear uniform reason for the suicides, but Marine authorities have decided to get to the root of the problem and developed a pro-active plan to address the situation.

According to the authorities, the rate of 75 suicides last year alone is the highest in 10 years. Incidentally, most of those who took their own lives had never been deployed or seen combat. And 63 percent of these soldiers were 25 or younger. However, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System confirmed 44 of the deaths to be actual suicides, while 13 were suspected suicides with the Corps waiting to confirm them as such.

Marines Who Committed Suicide Failed to Seek Treatment

The authorities cannot determine why the junior officers are ending their own lives at higher rates now, but they are trying to find out with a view to preventing future occurrences. The U.S. Department of Defense, the Navy Bureau of Medicine and other military branches have been sensitized to help with preventing suicides. A Corps source stated that most of the Marines who took their own lives had never been known to attend behavioral healthcare treatments.

The Corps will conduct the Defense Suicide Prevention Office Suicide Death Review Pilot study. The research will evaluate 10 suicide cases among Marines in 2018 in connection with the deceased’s military service, demographics, substance use history, bio-psycho-social stressors, and physical and psychiatric healthcare services use.

Training Initiatives and Outreach Programs Established for Suicide Prevention

To know how to respond to suicide cases, provide support and prevent any more suicides, the Corps is also determined to review the Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program. To this end the authorities have developed a host of training and outreach programs for suicide prevention among Marine officers. These include:

  • Training initiative to educate Marines on risk factors and warning signs for potential suicide
  • Program to help Marines and Navy officers who considered suicide in the past
  • Call center with phone number 1-877-476-7734 for counseling when officers experience stressors
  • Training program to enable Marine leaders, medical and religious personnel deal with stress related to combat and operations
  • Counseling program for Marines and sailors over family-related troubles

Major Craig Thomas, spokesman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, noted that suicide leaves families and communities devastated, and that the Marine Corps is committed to educating officers and their families about suicide prevention, mental health and programs available to help them manage stressors.

 

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