MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
The station Family Advocacy Program hosted the Suicide Awareness and Prevention 5K Run/Walk on the seawall here Sept. 25. The purpose of the event was to raise station residents’ awareness of suicide, the warning signs and ways to prevent it.
“The more people know, the more they can help break the silence,” said Mary C. Esquivel, station FAP victim advocate and prevention specialist. “A committee was formed to see where they could implement prevention.”
Approximately 80 participants took part in the event, ranging from service members to dependents and Status of Forces Agreement personnel. No official time was kept. Participants were encouraged to travel at whatever pace was comfortable.
“It’s just to show support,” said Esquivel. “We’re not doing a race. It’s so people can come out and show their support so other people can see they care about (suicide prevention).”
According to the Marine Corps Community Service website, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Marines following combat deaths. This statistic is significantly higher than the national U.S. average of eleventh leading cause. As of August 2011, 23 Marines had taken their lives and another 125 had attempted.
“It’s crazy to think (Marines) come home, make it through combat and they end up dying from suicide,” said Esquivel. “It’s enormous when you think about it. After they’ve given so much all ready, they take their own lives.”
Suicide can affect anyone at any given time or place. It is an act which not only robs a person of life, but can also have a debilitating effect on a person’s friends and family. Like any disease however, it can be treated. All one has to do is recognize the signs.
Some warning signs service member can look for when they suspect someone they know is contemplating suicide include giving away possessions, bouts of depression, a general sense of apathy and constantly contemplating or discussing death.
“The key thing is just knowing the warning signs,” said April L. Lombard, a Matthew C. Perry elementary school teacher. “MCCS has a website for suicide prevention. There are people on base who are willing to speak with (others) to help them.”
Lombard became involved with suicide awareness and prevention after she lost her father to suicide. Once she arrived on station, she began searching for ways to help deliver the message of suicide prevention and awareness.
“Capt. King was the public affairs officer at the time, and I asked him what is there on base I can be involved with,” said Lombard. “He put in motion having monthly meetings, pulling in the chaplains, people from counseling, so that started the ball rolling on putting (programs) in place.”
Lombard said once she shared her story with coworkers, they became comfortable enough to relate personal dealings with suicide. “It’s good not just on the military front but the civilian front as well,” said Lombard. “It’s a whole community involvement . Everybody needs to be involved with the issue.”
Silence can be one of suicide’s greatest allies. The stigma associated with it causes many service members to avoid the subject with their brothers and sisters-in-arms.
“I’ve seen it happen to others,” said Lance Cpl. Thad D. Cully, a Provost Marshal’s Office Special Reaction Team member. “It’s easy to get down when you’re away the first time.”
Suicide prevention is more than mission accomplishment. It is in knowing fellow Marines will look out for one another even when they feel no one else will.
“They need to know people do care about them,” said Cully. “There’s a lot of people that don’t know that.”
When Marines do not stop to recognize the signs of suicide or choose to ignore them, they are leaving that Marine behind to fight a battle on their own.
If anyone is having thoughts of committing suicide, contact the station counselor at 253-5104.