Suicide is an issue that, to eliminate, requires leadership from all Marines, especially noncommissioned officers.
Suicide is a preventable loss of life that diminishes unit readiness and morale and deeply affects all members of the Marine Corps.
Leaders foster the total fitness of each Marine to include the physical, social, spiritual and psychological dimensions.
Suicidal Marines may require long-term care from a professional, and they cannot start getting that help until the underlying problems are recognized. It is up to fellow Marines to recognize those in need of help and do everything in their power to prevent a suicide.
“NCOs need to take a stand on this issue to prevent Marines from losing their lives,” said Sgt. Luis R. Vela, a team leader with special reaction team, Camp Foster Provost Marshal’s Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler. “Marines should look after one another like family.”
The number one cause of suicide is depression, said Sgt. James A. Lyon, a suicide awareness prevention instructor with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Marines who are depressed need to seek assistance from fellow Marines, Lyon added.
“Everybody has his or her own dark points in life,” said Lyon. “(Seeking help) won’t hurt your career because everybody faces challenges, and sometimes you need help to overcome those challenges.”
Nearly everyone who commits suicide provides clues or warnings openly, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness website.
Suicide warning signs include direct statements or emotional reactions that suggest depression, significant weight loss or gain, or other abnormal behaviors such as giving away cherished personal items.
“In the combat lifesaver course, one of the things the instructors teach you to do in combat situations is self-aid (providing medical attention to yourself), buddy-aid (assistance from a fellow Marine) and then corpsman-aid (assistance from a Navy corpsman),” said Lyon. “When it comes to depression, Marines can’t do it alone. That’s why it’s very important for all Marines to look out for one another.”
Talking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide. Asking someone directly if they are thinking about hurting themselves can actually prevent suicide. Additionally, avoiding directly approaching a potential victim can make him or her feel as if no one cares and may reinforce negative thoughts.
“The more you talk with (a suicidal person) there is an increased likelihood that you’ll find out what’s wrong with them,” said Sgt. Gary King II, a barracks manager with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler. “Holding (negative emotions) in doesn’t help, it festers. But, having someone to talk to and let it out really helps.”
Every Marine is trained annually to be aware of the signs of suicide, said Lyons. Marines learn that camaraderie and understanding fellow Marines is the backbone of prevention.
“Marines need to have established camaraderie with those they are around every day because that’s a part of knowing them,” said Lyon. “You can know your Marines and look out for their welfare whether they are junior to you, your peers or seniors. The Marine Corps is a brotherhood and sisterhood, and your job is to look out for the Marine to your left and to your right.”
For more information about suicide prevention or to seek help, call or visit:
For emergencies, call 911 or 098-911-1911
MCCS Counseling & Advocacy at 645-2915
Military Family Life Consultants at 645-0371 on Camp Foster or 623-3035 on Camp Hansen
Lester Mental Health at 643-7722
For deployment-related assistance, call the FOCUS Project at 645-6077
This work, Marines protect Marines, prevent suicide, by Cpl Justin Wheeler, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.