MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
The holiday season is here. It is a time for families and friends to celebrate and be merry. But for too many, the holiday season means added depression, stress and anxiety.
In an effort to rally Marines in support of their brothers and sisters in arms, the “Holiday Suicide Prevention ‘Call to Action’” was released in Marine Administrative Message 648/14.
According to the MARADMIN, 45 Marines and Sailors within the Navy-Marine Corps family have taken their own lives this year alone. Leaders at every level must be alert to prevent the unnecessary loss of more lives during this time of year.
Service members and their families often have added levels of stress on top of the common holiday stressors of shopping, entertaining and financial burdens. Whether it is training, deployment or separation from loved ones, these stressors can make finding the holiday spirit seem impossible for some.
“Being away from home, family and friends can be hard for Marines and Sailors during the holiday season,” said Navy Capt. Russell Graef, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing chaplain. “Many service members are let down during the holiday season because they have expectations of what the holiday should be like. When they cannot be with their loved ones and they see their colleagues going home, they suffer a sense of loss and feel a lost connection with their family and friends if they can’t be there with them.”
According to the MARADMIN, all Marines must take preemptive measures to help fellow service members reinforce their own protective instincts, to address their personal concerns, and must intervene to help others better cope with issues. This requires engaged leadership and daily vigilance.
Depression and anxiety may be caused by any number of sources including stressful relationship issues, significant legal or financial concerns or transitioning to a new command.
In reality, people feel sad all year round, said Graef. It can just be more difficult and weigh more heavily on a person during times when society tells us we should be happy.
The Marine Corps has invested in several programs to ensure that the Marines and Sailors remain safe and continue to look out for one another.
Some programs available to service members and their families include the Marine Intercept Program, Force Preservation Councils, Marine and Family Life Counselors and the DSTRESS Hotline.
Additionally, the chaplains, Military One Source and local behavioral health treatment facilities on and off base are available for those who seek or need help, said Graef.
“Planning ahead is essential when combating holiday stress and depression,” said Graef. “Marines and Sailors need to remember that they are not alone. There is always a family who will invite a service member to their home for the holiday and doors are always open to speak with a chaplain if you are feeling sad or uneasy.”
Graef suggests that service members who won’t be with loved ones for the holidays seek out the company and friendship of those around them.
“Get together with each other, plan ahead for things you can do to keep busy and have fun during the holiday season,” said Graef. “It will give you something to look forward to and maybe it can become part of a new tradition you’ve created.”
Service members seeking assistance have several resources. Call the DSTRESS Hotline at (877) 476-7734, the 23/7 Chaplain Support Line at (252) 229-7248, Military One Source at (800) 342-9647, National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 or Marine and Family Services at http://www.usmc-mccs.org.