BARSTOW, Calif. - Marines are known to never leave one another behind on the battlefield. However, Marines are also trained to maintain this mindset outside of combat, during peacetime in any given situation.
According to Marine Administrative Message 524/12, all Marines are mandated to annually complete Never Leave a Marine Behind Suicide Prevention Training.
Aside from the training, the month of September is recognized as Suicide Prevention Month.
Marines and people nationwide are encouraged to stay aware of the seriousness of suicide and how to recognize signs and prevent a comrade from taking their own life.
“It’s a month to re-emphasize the importance of preventing suicide,” said Sgt. Julio Acevedo, a Never Leave a Marine Behind instructor on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif. “You always need to be aware of what (signs of suicide) to look for in Marines… or any person in general.”
Suicide is very serious in the military, Acevedo explained. If one Marine goes down, an entire section and unit’s mission will be affected, from the work load to the morale within the unit.
“We are a family … we need to look out for one another,” added the Hollywood, Fla., native.
Acevedo further explained the Marine Corps preaches things like, "pay attention to detail" and "know your Marines" for a reason.
“As a sergeant, I ask how my Marines are doing regularly,” he explained. “You need to know how to approach individual Marines, and you need to notice when something is off about them.”
Things to look out for include: drinking habits, giving away possessions, isolating themselves, or making negative comments, Acevedo added.
“If you see a Marine (or anyone) start acting differently (than their normal selves) you need to ask questions,” he said. “A simple ‘how are you?’ could ultimately end up saving someone’s life.”
If an MCLB Barstow Marine was to need, he or she would be taken to the Behavioral Health Clinic at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., said Sgt. Ivy Portillo, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the clinic.
In 2012, more than 350 active duty service members took their own lives … it’s an extremely serious issue in the military,” explained Portillo. “We do everything we can to prevent it and provide as many resources as possible for people to seek help”
Portillo explained the reasons some people cannot handle the stress of being in the military. These include, combat stress, relocating, relationship issues, financial issues, or any occupational stress an individual may not be able to cope with.
She further explained the acronym "RACE" for anyone who may come across someone with suicidal thoughts. This method provides guidance on how to care for someone who needs help.
Recognize distress, changes in personality, eating or sleeping patterns.
Ask how they are doing. If you are concerned, ask them, straight forward, if they are thinking of killing themselves.
Care for your fellow service member, friend or loved one. Listen to them and get the help they need.
Escort your comrade to wherever they need to go for help. Do not leave them alone.
The Department of Behavioral Health at Fort Irwin offers many different psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers for military members and their families.
Portillo encourages anyone who may need help, for themselves or a loved one, to immediately seek it.
Acevedo added suicide prevention awareness and training courses are a must to keep Marines ready to protect their brothers and sisters, on and off the battlefield.
If you or a loved one is thinking of committing suicide and need to talk to someone immediately, the National Suicide Prevention lifeline is on call 24-hours a day, 1-800 273-TALK.