Twentynine Palms, Ca -- TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Each tragic loss due to suicide has far-reaching impacts on families, friends and the Marines and sailors left behind. At the unit level it affects morale, unit cohesion, and ultimately combat readiness.
Leadership from Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and the Combat Center came together to address this critical topic at the 2016 Suicide Prevention Symposium held at the Officers Club, Feb. 24, 2016.
Combat Center senior leaders came to the consensus that one is one too many during the two-hour symposium, which dove into the analytics of suicide in the military and informed the leaders on available resources and what they can do within their respective units to prevent it.
“The symposium is held to link the important members of the team together and prevent service members that have serious issues from slipping through the cracks by actually getting them the help they need,” said Stacie Coduto, Behavioral Health Branch head, Marine Corps Community Services.
The leaders learned how Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital Mental Health Branch, Religious Ministries Team and MCCS Behavioral Health Team can work together to best leverage and communicate instances of high-risk service member to decrease risk and prevent suicide.
“At the senior leadership level, they have access to information that others within their command don’t,” Coduto said. “They can also set a tone within their command on how they are going to engage suicide prevention and support their Marines.”
According to hhs.gov, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. The military is not exempt from this act and commanders are not authorized to ask about certain information pertaining to their service members. According to Coduto, through open communication within the different teams, commanders can be as informed as possible about their service member without violating any privacy laws.
“We want leaders to understand the value of having that collaborative relationship with the health provider,” Coduto said. “They can reach out to us for information and likewise they should expect us to reach out to them.”
Warning signs of suicide can be subtle, but recognizing these signs can prevent suicide. Staying vigilant of Marines or sailors who appear overwhelmed by recent stressors, talk about feeling trapped, or begin to withdraw from friends and family are steps that can save lives.
In accordance with Marine Corps Order 1720.2, leaders provide their subordinate Marines and sailors with standardized training, on a yearly basis, that demonstrates current knowledge about suicide prevention and up-to-date information on local resources.
“Leaders will always care about their Marines and sailors because one life lost is too many,” said Sgt. Maj. Avery Crespin, battalion sergeant major, Headquarters Battalion. “If that means all of the leaders on the base need to come together to talk about this topic to save one service member’s life, then it’s worth it.”
The DSTRESS Line, available 24 hours, 7 days a week, provides Marines, sailors and family members someone to speak with about everyday stress. If you or someone you know is struggling, contact the anonymous hotline at 1-877-476-7734 or visit www.dstressline.com.