2nd MAW, Cherry Point raise awareness for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

30 Sep 2014 | Cpl. Grace L. Waladkewics

The Marine Corps and Department of Defense leaders recognize September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

The DoD recognizes that suicide is a serious problem that causes vast pain, suffering and loss to individuals, families, survivors, military units and military communities.

To combat suicide, the DoD has established suicide prevention methods. These methods monitor and analyze suicide prevention research and surveillance activities in order to identify suicide risk factors. The goal is to improve suicide prevention policies and programs throughout the Department.

According to the DoD Suicide Event Report, during the calendar year 2012, there were 59 suicides among active-duty members of the Navy, 57 in the Air Force, 47 in the Marine Corps and 155 in the Army.

In response to negative trends regarding suicide, the Marine Corps implemented several ways to educate Marines and Sailors about the signs and dangers of suicide.

“By assisting with coping skills, communication skills, anger management skills and addressing unhealthy habits and irrational beliefs, service members can implement healthy coping and communication skills as a prevention strategy more than just during annual training,” said Lt. Col.  Thomas P. Bajus, wing force preservation officer.

Leadership is encouraged to explore all available resources to better guard their service members against suicide attempts, said Bajus.

“It comes down to knowing your Marines and Sailors,” said Cmdr. David Shirk, command chaplain for Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. “They need to use self-talk to understand that they can make a mistake and still survive from it.”

According to Shirk, commands need to recognize warning signs in their service members.

The Marine intercept program provides follow-up care and counseling for Marines who have attempted suicide or have had suicidal ideations. The program serves as an additional support system working with the Corps’ current standardized reporting systems to enhance a Marine’s chances of recovery after an incident.

Leaders and peers must know their fellow service members well enough to detect a change in their behavior, according to Shirk. All are encouraged to get involved, ask questions and be extra observant when someone faces a lifestyle change such as divorce, pregnancy, deployment or transition.

Leaders and peers are advised to remain engaged and empathetic and to ask questions caringly, clearly and directly.

“Rehearsal is crucial in recognizing and reducing the risks,” said Lt. Chelsey N. Flohe, internal behavioral health consultant with Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point. “Ask questions in a direct manner. Use the words ‘hurting or killing yourself’ instead of ‘doing something crazy,’ because the suicidal mind is not the rational mind and ‘something crazy’ to you may be rational to them.”

Arming service members with coping skills is the best tool to combat self-destructive behaviors like suicide, according to Flohe. Validation and empathy are key, she said.

“Know the triggers of your friends and encourage them to avoid places or things that can bring up memories or trigger anger and depression,” said Flohe.

There are several suicide prevention resources available to service members and assistance to increase resilience across the ranks.
Awareness month allows leaders to ensure they are getting information and options to every service member because knowledge and awareness can lead to lives saved.

Marines and Sailors are taught to Recognize, Ask, Care and Escort any person they believe to be in distress.

Additional resources available are:

The 24/7 Duty Chaplain number at 252-229-7248.

Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health Outreach Call Center at 1-866-966-1020.

Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 or

Marine and Family Services at

All Military Medical Treatment Facilities.

Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program at

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or

Chain of command or local emergency services at 911.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point