MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, residents gathered at Penny Lake fields to participate in the 3rd annual Suicide Awareness 5K run/walk, Sept. 27, 2014.
The event, hosted by the Robert M. Casey Medical and Dental Health Clinic, Marine Memorial Chapel and Behavioral Health, served to bring awareness to suicide stigmas, said Lt. Latoya Zavala, a station chaplain.
“The more awareness we bring, the more pumped up we are about prevention and curing, the more that we can prevent the issue on this base,” said Zavala. “If we can bring enough attention to save one life, is it worth it? It definitely is!”
Staff Sgt. Francisco Osorio, a participant in the event, mentioned that there are several reasons being in a foreign country can cause undue stress to service members.
“There are Marines who are down because they’re homesick, maybe work is tough or they lost their girlfriend; sometimes people feel like they’re alone,” said Osorio. “It’s really important for them to know they’re not alone and that there is someone to talk to. The Marine Corps is a family. Some people forget that we are humans, we do have feelings, and there are always people who are there to help us handle those tough situations.”
According to Lt. j.g. Barbara Bentley, a clinical social worker with the Branch Health Clinic, recent statistics have shown an increase in military suicides, even surpassing civilian rates.
“If something is preventable, like a disease, you would do everything you can to stop that disease from occurring,” said Bentley. “Suicide is a preventable public health concern and it’s a big one that’s growing. In the United States, it’s one of the top 10 main causes of death, and even more so in the military.”
Bentley said she is passionate about getting the word out about prevention and letting people know it’s okay to talk about suicide, breaking the stigma of people thinking that seeking help is selfish or weak.
“I’ve had friends and I’ve had family members who have either lost someone to suicide or struggled with thoughts themselves,” said Bentley. “On top of that, once we get in the field of social work and mental health, I see it so often, the scars of war and the trauma that happens before you even get into the military. I see people wanting to ask for help, but they’re afraid to say anything.”
The next awareness event coming up is a Ribbon Awareness Color Run, which brings attention to the issues of breast cancer, drug education and domestic violence, and is scheduled to take place Oct. 11. Heather Payne, substance abuse prevention specialist with Behavioral Health, said 70 volunteers are being requested for the event.