Thursday, March 12, 2009

Some Sad Stats

Corps Sees Dramatic Spike in Suicides

While the Army fights a high-profile battle against suicides, the Marine Corps is quietly upping its effort to combat the malaise following the worst year for suicides in more than a decade.

Forty-one Marines committed suicide in 2008 while another 146 tried but failed. If all had been successful, that's pretty close to an entire infantry company trying to take its own life.

"This is the highest rate of suicide since 1995 and reflects an unacceptable loss of life for the Marine Corps," Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said in a recent Marine Administrative message. "Each and every Marine is critical to our Corps and our mission."

In response to its spiking suicide rate, the Army had called for a force-wide stand-down day in which suicide prevention training will take center stage.

The Corps, meanwhile, has directed all Marines to participate in a service-wide training sometime this month.

"We are actively engaged in prevention measures and early identification of problems that may increase the risk of suicide. Leaders at all levels are concerned about the increase in the number of suicides," the Corps' chief suicide prevention officer, Navy Cmdr. Aaron Werbel, said in a prepared statement forwarded to

The Army numbers are staggering: 138 suicides last year and possibly up to 42 in the first two months of 2009 pending investigations.

The Marine Corps numbers are not as harrowing, but show the time away from the range is warranted.

The number of suicides in the Corps increased for the second straight year in 2008, and for the first time since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began the majority of those who killed themselves had served downrange.

"While this may simply be due to increasing proportions of total Marines with a history of deployment, further investigations into possible relationships between these factors are ongoing," Werbel said. "Analyses to date have not demonstrated any actionable findings between suicide and deployment history."

The number of Marines who killed themselves while serving in a combat zone tied the previous high set in 2004 at seven.

And it's happening across the Corps.

Only two of the 41 suicides were females, but the trend cut across other barriers. Fifteen noncommissioned officers and two officers took their own life.

The majority of suicides were gun-shot wounds, but 12 Marines hung themselves last year. Most were white, but two black and four Hispanic Marines also committed suicide.

For the first time since 2001, the number of suicides in the Corps is roughly equal to the average among civilians at 19 per 100,000.

Marines, however, are far more efficient at killing themselves. For every three Marines that attempt suicide, one proves successful while the number is at least eight to one for civilians.

The recent spike is especially troubling for the Corps after it experienced a steady decline in suicides from 1997 to 2006. Three years ago, the Corps saw a suicide rate of roughly 14 per 100,000.

That was during some of the fiercest fighting Marines had experience in decades as the Corps struggled with insurgents and terrorists in Iraq's Anbar province.

The last three months of 2006 alone saw 288 American troops killed in Iraq, according to online statistics.

Today, Iraq is preparing for a drawdown of American troops and the Army has more soldiers killing themselves than dying in combat. The Corps is implementing updated training hoping it doesn't follow the same path.

Part of the required training is a slide show that educates Marines on the warning signs of suicide and how to look out for their fellow leathernecks.

Werbel said many of the factors leading to suicide are uniform across the services: problems in romantic relationships, physical health, performance and job dissatisfaction, and pending legal or administrative action.

All Marine commanders ranked colonel and above are required to produce an instructional video to be shown to their commands alongside the Corps-provided slide show.

Werbel acknowledged that refreshing the Corps' suicide prevention training and partnering with outside organizations with expertise in combating suicide might not be the quick fix some hope to see.

"Suicide prevention does not lend itself to a quick or easy solution," he said. "There is no single answer or action for suicide prevention."

March 11, 2009
Military.comby Bryan Mitchell

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Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Military One Source 1-800-342-9647

Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline - 1-800-984-8523

National Suicide Hotline - 1-800-SUICIDE


Butler and Bagman said...

Sad but important post. Working in the mental health / addiction field, I've been working with the National Guard and Veteran's Administration to try and handle some of the overflow from VA hospitals in our County alcohol and drug center...and to get the word out locally. PTSD is a large and growing problem.

AirmanMom said...

B& was disturbing to read this article, but I knew it was important to share. I read Father Joseph Martin's obituary in the Washington Post this morning, he worked so hard to help those who were hurting.

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Eye opening and so tragic.


AirmanMom said...

hallie...terribly sad!

Single and loving it said...

These are very sad stats and it makes me wonder how much counseling
is available to them wherever they may be deployed.

Michelle said...

These are devesatating statistics. Working for the Veterans Affairs Homeless Veterans Programs we are keenly aware of this issue. Unfortunately, the VA gets blamed for not doing enough to stop this trend. I have been personally effected by 2 suicides in my life and neither one could have been predicted. One was even a Colonel/Doctor in the Army Reserve. It knows no boundaries. Thanks for sharing this with your readers.

Anonymous said...

The best America has to offer; these young troops need the support of the government and society as a whole. We are not good at that as a country. The world is a complicated place. No easy answer. God bless the troops!

Kanani said...

This news started surfacing last autumn. I remember being bowled over by the stat of 5 people trying to commit suicide per day.

One thing we must do is to erase the stigma of mental illness in our society. Treatment has to be seen as essential to a better more productive life. People must not call medication "crap like that," and medication must be seen as an ally to other treatments such as individual and family psychological counseling.

Great post! By the way, I've left an article over on my blog about something pernicious being offered to military wives by surrogacy lawyers.

AirmanMom said...

single...our troops deserve the best of everything! And if our best is not good enough, we owe it to them to make it better.

AirmanMom said...

michelle...thank you for the work you do, it is so very important! Thank you for stopping by!

AirmanMom said...

usmc81...we do need to take better care of our troops. hopefully these articles will help to open more eyes to the needs of each member of our military!

AirmanMom said...

kanani...thank you for stopping by and I do look forward to visiting your blog. Mental Illness certainly does have a stigma which needs to be placed in its proper place.

Grandpa-Old Soldier said...

This is a sad fact of war.

AirmanMom said... is a sad price we pay.