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Monday, March 13, 2006

Marine Corps Suicides Spiked 29% in 2004

The latest data made public by the Marine Corps shows a spike in Marine suicides in 2004 -- the highest amount recorded in ten years. Although service members generally commit fewer suicides than the general population, "Marine commanders say the rise...continues a worrisome three-year trend that is likely linked to stress from the sharply increased pace of war-zone rotations."

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From the Washington Post:

Thirty-one Marines committed suicide in 2004, all of them enlisted men, not commissioned officers. The majority were younger than 25 and took their lives with gunshot wounds, according to Marine statistics. Another 83 Marines attempted suicide. There were 24 suicides in 2003, and there have not been more than 29 in any year in the last 10. ...

It is "not only Iraq, it's just the ops tempo [operational tempo] in general, that's what I think," Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant, told reporters at a breakfast meeting yesterday.

Hagee's remarks echoed a strong warning in a Dec. 13 memo that he issued on suicide prevention. "This problem is pervasive and is impacting Marines throughout the Corps, not just those who have been deployed in support of the global war on terrorism," the memo said. "The increased operational tempo that our Corps is experiencing may be affecting the ability of our Marines to deal with perceived overwhelming stresses associated with relationship, financial, and disciplinary problems."

Indeed, about 70 percent of Marine suicides over the past four years have been caused by problems in personal relationships, which can be exacerbated by heavy workloads, said Cmdr. Thomas Gaskin, a behavioral health specialist for the Corps' Personal and Family Readiness Division at Quantico. "That is the single biggest stressor," he said.

Even in the general population, people drowning in suicidal thoughts and behaviors find it hard to reach out for help. In the military, this may be an even more difficult hurdle to overcome:

Hagee warned that while some Marines have displayed obvious warning signs of suicidal tendencies -- such as a preoccupation with dying, risky behavior, withdrawal or giving away their possessions -- many do not. In his memo, he warned that some Marines feel stigmatized for seeking help.

"They may feel it is not acceptable to ask for help because they don't want to be labeled as 'weak' or 'defective' in the eyes of their subordinates, peers, or leaders," he wrote. Commanders, he emphasized, must redouble their efforts to make Marines feel comfortable in revealing problems that could lead to suicide.

Please read the entire WaPo piece. And if you're in need of help personally, please seek it out immediately. You have many places to turn and many resources available for taking.

Other helpful links

Leaders Guide to Managing Marines in Distress
Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program

Suicide Prevention Info (from the Camp Pendelton website)

For the past 10 years suicide has been the second or third leading cause of death among active duty Marines and Sailors. Suicide is a result of the inability to deal with stress because of an underlying psychological problem, such as depression or alcohol abuse. Suicide thoughts and attempts are made by all ranks regardless of color or sex.

Common Signs of suicide risk:

* Previous Attempt
* Mental health problems or alcohol abuse
* Suicidal thoughts
* Social Isolation
* Impulsive Anger
* Relationship Problems
* Legal Problems
* Financial Problems
* Performance Problems

Marines are in the habit of taking care of each other. If you suspect a fellow Marine is at risk for suicide take action and A.I.D. L.I.F.E.

* A-sk, Don't be afraid to ask if the person is thinking of suicide
* I-ntervene Immediately -Take action. Listen to the person. Let them know they are not alone and that you and others are willing to help them.
* D-on't keep it a secret
* L-ocate Help - Seek out the officer on duty, chaplain, physician, corpsman, friend, family member etc. right away.
* I-nform the Chain of Command - The chain of command can aid the individual in finding resources for the long term. They can help monitor and assure the individual receives the help they need.
* F-ind Someone - Don't leave the person alone. Find someone to stay with them.
* E-xpedite - Get help right away. An at-risk person needs immediate attention.

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