CAMP PENDLETON — One service member commits suicide every two days, and one service member attempts every two hours, according to a Camp Pendleton Proclamation 2011 Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.
This proclamation also states that suicide is the second leading cause of death among both Marines and sailors, and the tenth leading cause of death in California.
The statistics are shocking, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research has shown that through education and public awareness, suicide can be prevented.
The U.S. military recognizes September as Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month to increase awareness of the warning signs and how to help someone experiencing a crisis.
As of August 2011, there have been 23 reported suicides, and 125 reported attempts in the Marine Corps, according to the Marine Corps Family Program Suicide Prevention Program, compared to 52 total suspected suicides in 2009, and 37 in 2010.
“This continual reduction reflects the Marine Corps’ commitment to taking care of our own and ensuring no Marine is left behind,” according to Brig. Gen. R. F. Hedelund, director, Marine and Family Programs Division. “Building strong and resilient Marines, who seek physical and mental fitness, is critical for military readiness and personal well being.”
The number of successful suicides is greater in males, but females have a greater attempt rate, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Allen Ennis, a corpsman at 13 Area Base Medical Clinic, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Fatal and non-fatal suicidal behavior is caused by numerous, complex factors including physical illness, feelings of hopelessness and the loss of a job, family or friends, or finances.
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary crisis,” said Capt. Ollis Mozon, command chaplain, Marine Corps Installation-West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Many people experiencing a crisis may feel they are unable to find solutions to the problems they are experiencing.
“It is a sign of strength to seek help, and seeking help is consistent with mission readiness and building resilience,” Hedelund said.
Despite the easy access to various clinical interventions and support, there is a trend of unwillingness to seek help due to the stigma attached to seeking help.
“Talk to someone before acting on impulses,” Mozon said. “The chaplain can assist you in developing the faith and spiritual resiliency that empowers you to endure. A doctor can treat the physical and medical conditions that create challenges.
Mental health providers can help you adapt to the psychological issues impacting your life and relationships, and your command leadership can assist in developing the life skills to negotiate difficult situations.”
According to the CDC, 70 percent of people who are suicidal show warning signs. Making individuals capable of recognizing the indicators and understanding ways to assist someone who is hurting helps prevent the heartbreak, disruption of unit cohesion, camaraderie and the shattering of family stability that comes when a loved one commits suicide.
According to Ennis, some common warning signs are:
• Hopelessness, feeling like there’s no way out and no reason to live
• Rage, anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings
• Engaging in risky activities without proper planning
• Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
• Withdrawing from family and friends and giving away possessions
Suicide prevention is about creating an environment filled with hope where people feel cared for and supported no matter what problems they face, said Mozon.
• Talk openly and matter-of-factly while allowing expression of feelings
• Get involved by becoming available and showing interest and support
• Offer hope that alternatives are available
• Lecture the value of life or debate right or wrong, or good or bad
• Act shocked or dare him or her to do it
• Swear secrecy or offer insincere reassurance
If you feel immediate attention is required, remove means of self-injury, call a skilled professional or 911 and do not leave the person at risk by himself.
Counseling services available on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton are:
Counseling Services-Main Office (760) 725-9051
Counseling Services-North (760) 763-6940
Prevention & Education (760) 725-6636
Several help lines are also available, including:
The DStress Line (877) 476-7734
Military One Source (800) 342-9647
Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-8255
Hopeline (800) 442-4673
National Suicide Hotline (800) 784-2433