News: Heroes and Healthy Families; conference addresses issues affecting Marines and their families
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - “Suicide! Suicide! Suicide!” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham said to a crowd of Marines. “So many people get uncomfortable when we say that word.”
Graham, an activist for mental health and suicide prevention, was one of the keynote speakers at the Heroes and Healthy Families Conference held aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, June 6 through 7.
His son, 2nd Lt. Jeff Graham, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, February 2004. Another son, Kevin, a senior Army ROTC cadet, committed suicide, June 2003 while studying to be an Army doctor at the University of Kentucky.
“The mental, physical and spiritual fitness of our service members and families is so important,” Graham said. “The work done here will have an impact across your units, this base and certainly the entire Marine Corps. Those of you here in this room can be a part of, directly or indirectly, saving someone’s life.”
Established in 2004, the Heroes and Healthy Families program is a series of conferences that train Marine leaders and their families to identify the warning signs of post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, family violence and suicide potential in themselves and in those under their command. Attendees listened to various speakers who’ve dealt with these issues firsthand.
“Over the years I’ve learned a lot about life, leadership, management and those ideas necessary in being successful,” Graham said. “The single most important lesson I’ve learned is that no one is isolated from hardship.”
Lifting the stigma Marines associate with many of the issues was prevalent throughout the conference.
The idea was to make sure Marines understand that reaching out for help reflects a sign of strength not weakness, Kathy McCarrell, chief executive officer, HHF, said.
“It’s normal for anyone who has seen combat or experienced a long separation from loved ones due to deployments to deal with these types of things,” McCarrell said. “We want to change behavior and we want to change belief systems. Our surveys are telling us both those things happen thanks to the impact the conference has on Marines.”
Medal of Honor recipient, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas Kelly spoke at the event and told the crowd how stubborn he was when it came to seeking help. It took him more than 30 years before he sought treatment for his combat-related PTSD. He was working with service members who were returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan and realized he was dealing with some of the same stressors they were.
“It wasn’t until I started working with veterans about 12 years ago when people started coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with some emotional distress issues that I decided it was time for me to seek some help too,” Kelly said. “The challenge is trying to catch the stress in time before it becomes a disorder and harms the individual Marine or unit. It’s a sign of strength rather than weakness to seek help when needed and to intervene when those around you need help.”
Other speakers included Graham’s wife Carol, Lt. Gen. Jay Paxton, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force; Brig. Gen. Thomas Gorry, commanding general, Marine Corps Installation East and Medal of Honor recipient, retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston. They all echoed the same theme—“If you think someone or yourself needs help; speak up.”
“We all need to be part of the solution and not the problem,” Graham said. “I’m here to tell you we cannot be quiet any more, we’ve got to continue to talk. We cannot take that hush tone and not speak of the invisible wounds and issues; to include suicide. We’re working hard in the military to ensure that every door a service member goes through for support is the right door; with the right answers.”
Date Posted:06.11.2012 14:30
Location:CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, US
- 2nd Recon makes big splash during training
- AABn conducts annual gunnery training
- Lejeune Marines bid farewell to ‘Seven for One’ battalion
- Nation’s third-highest honor bestowed upon brave Marine