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Suicide Prevention: help available service-wide

24 Mar 2009 | Cpl. Shawn Coolman 1st Marine Division

Forty-one Marines killed themselves in 2008.

Around every corner there is someone who can help Marines who are thinking about suicide. Aboard the base, there are many services a Marine can utilize to seek help.

“Camp Pendleton has a variety of resources. Chaplains, counseling services and Division Mental Health can all provide individual counseling,” said Amanda Hinkle, Prevention Education Specialist, Counseling Services Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton.

“The key is finding the appropriate resource for the person in need someone they can feel comfortable with and open up to. We want to ensure that each person receives both immediate and sustained assistance from someone who meets their individual needs.”

In addition to the base’s various services, a significant resource a Marine has to seek help is his or her chain of command.

“The Marines in the immediate leadership positions: they’re the ones who interact with these Marines on a daily basis, and often times they are the ones who are going to control how their day is going to be,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Young Song, 47, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division Chaplain.

Song provides battalion-wide suicide prevention classes to the command to help stop suicides.

“If I can train them (leadership) to have eyes and ears to be able to identify the Marines in distress, then they will be the greatest asset the command can have in terms of preventing suicide,” said Song, from Chicago.

“When I train the trainers or when I speak to all the general Marines through the regular training, the things I make very clear to all Marines is that if someone makes a statement that he is going to commit suicide never take it as a joke. If it turns out to be a joke then wonderful, but if it doesn’t turn out to be a joke, then we could have saved this Marine. It is better to be safe than sorry.”

Someone who is contemplating suicide typically exhibits certain behavioral characteristics to Marines around him.

“The biggest sign of someone thinking about suicide is their drastic personality change,” said Song. “If a person is interactive, fun and outgoing and he becomes an introvert is a big sign (of depression),” said Song.

Song also mentioned other common characteristics of someone contemplating suicide, including giving away personal possessions, heavy drinking and being obsessed with death.

Looking out for fellow Marines is a long-standing tradition in the Marine Corps, and with the help of services and the thousands of Marines aboard the base, suicide can be averted.

“The best thing anyone can do is support,” said Hinkle. “Our goal is to get them to support services quickly and as positively as possible.”

1st Marine Division