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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

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Holiday Season Suicide Prevention ‘Call to Action’

By Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | December 19, 2014


Despite the relaxed atmosphere and yuletide cheer associated with the holidays, no service member is immune to stress from relationships, traumatic events, financial issues or other factors.

Headquarters Marine Corps has published a new order urging Marines and Sailors to remain vigilant towards the threat of suicide, which can happen to any service member, any time, any place.

Over the past year, more than 45 Marines and Sailors have committed suicide according to the Holiday Season Suicide Prevention Marine Administrative Message. The publication was a call to action for service members to take pre-emptive measures and exercise vigilance, particularly throughout the holiday season.

"During the holiday season people tend to have higher hopes and expectations,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey N. Saville, chaplain with Marine Corps Installations-West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “If these expectations aren’t met, those high hopes fall a little further, making the disappointment a little more profound.”

“Also, during a time of celebration if that person is disappointed and there happens to be alcohol, that might impair their judgment,” said Saville. “Unfortunately many suicides occur when service members are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.”

The Marine Corps has invested in many programs to take care of Marines and Sailors, such as the Marine Intercept Program, Force Preservation Councils, Marine Family Life Counselors and online support hotlines such as D-STRESS. These programs maintain confidentiality on all personal matters. In addition, unit chaplains are also available at all times to provide advice and counselling.

The Marine Corps also provides continuous training through the Operational Stress Control and Readiness program and selects small unit leaders to identify stress early. ‘Never Leave a Marine Behind’ training and the future ‘Unite Marine Awareness Prevention Intervention’ Training also aim to prevent suicide by emphasizing bystander intervention and targeting the multitude of factors that can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Saville said that during the holidays, individuals spend a lot of time away from their unit where their fellow Marines and Sailors might not see them on a day to day basis.

“It’s important for us to observe for all the cues, and we have to be sincere and genuinely listen,” said Saville.

The Marine Corps’ Executive Force Preservation Board identifies Marines and Sailors who think about or attempt suicide based on stressful relationship issues, legal or financial concerns, or who are struggling as a result of transitioning to a new command.

Finally, the MARADMIN emphasized the importance of keeping faith with other Marines and families through command climates that foster approachability and availability. It urges leaders at every level to re-engage and identify any of their Marines or Sailors who might benefit from the resources available to prevent suicide.

“Marines and Sailors of every rank are human beings before service members. That means each one of us is vulnerable to the ups and downs of life,” said Saville. “On Saturday night, out in town, who's looking out for our Marines and Sailors? It has to be that Marine or Sailor's buddies on liberty with them, who are available, attentive, ready to listen and if necessary, call for help.”