Amid reports of rising suicide rates across the military, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific personnel participated in suicide prevention training here March 26.
“The Commandant of the Marine Corps wants to arm us to be able to see all the indicators and act accordingly,” said Lt. Col. John Sharkey, MarForPac Headquarters and Service Battalion commanding officer.
To arm Marines with the means to help they were taught the warning signs, risk factors and means of intervening with suicidal people.
Leaders have attributed the rising rates to several factors, such as the tough economy, higher stress levels and the ongoing Global War on Terror. According to Marine administrative message, 0134/09, 41 Marines took their lives and 146 attempted to do so in 2008.
“Every single person has worth. Every single Marine is important. There is never anything that can happen to any one of us that is worth taking our own lives,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Stroud, chaplain, HQSVCBN, Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Stroud, also emphasized that it is okay for a Marine to admit they have a problem and that leaders get to know their Marines to be able to identify problems.
To illustrate this, Marines were told the story of Sgt. Richard Stumpf, a drill instructor at Parris Island, S.C. Stumpf had been displaying very alarming risk factors for suicide – his job performance declined, a growing alcohol problem and instances of adultery. He thought admitting his problems would ruin his career. Consequently, he took his own life, thinking he had no way out.
“I think what the Commandant is trying to do is create a change in culture. No more should Marines be ashamed to come forth and say ‘I have a problem, I need help,’” said Stroud.
Stroud emphasized the many services in place for service members to take advantage of, such as Military OneSource and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“It is important to know that there are resources in place for whatever is going on in your life. Somewhere out there someone is getting paid to provide those services to our military,” said Stroud. “Nowhere else is there such a support structure. Unfortunately, a lot of Marines and Sailors don’t know that.”
Not only should Marines not be afraid to admit they have a problem, but also have the courage to come forth when they see someone at risk.
“It may be hard to say something and some may think it makes them a tattle-tale, but it could potentially save someone’s life,” said Sgt. Maj. James Roberts, MFP HQSVCBN sergeant major.
For more information on the Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program, tools and resources, go to http://www.usmc-mccs.org/suicideprevent.