DoD Annual Suicide Report CY18
26 Sep 2019

QUANTICO, Virginia – In 2018, 77 Marines died by suicide (58 Active Component, 19 Reserve Component). The loss of each individual has lasting harmful effects on fellow Marines, their families, and the Corps. Suicide is a total-force concern and leaders have a responsibility to educate Marines and their families about suicide prevention, mental wellness, and how to access the services available to help navigate the stressors of life.

“We all have a role in suicide prevention individual service members, unit leaders, families and mental health professionals. Every Marine and Sailor must work together to be engaged in each other's lives. Just as we talk about physical fitness, marksmanship, training and education. Marines must also be comfortable discussing life's struggles, mental wellness and suicide. We must create a community where seeking help and assistance are simply normal, important decisions Marines and Sailors make.”Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps

Current Marine Corps suicide prevention initiatives address the risk factors at the individual-, relationship-, and community-levels that can lead a person to believe death by suicide is a solution. Our prevention approach focuses on two key points:

1. Having open dialogue about stress, resiliency, mental wellness, and suicide. Leaders and mental health programs and resources acknowledge that “everybody struggles with life, trauma, shame, guilt, and uncertainty,” and asking for help is acceptable and Marines should not be ostracized for it.

 2. Discussing and educating Marines and their families on how to recognize and reduce risk factors and social influences associated with suicide (e.g., reluctance to seek help, relationship problems, financial difficulties, pending disciplinary actions, and access to lethal means), while also increasing protective factors (e.g. strong social connections, problem-solving and coping skills).

The Marine Corps reviews its suicide death data annually and produces actionable recommendations for Marine leadership. Examples of Death by Suicide Review Board findings (f) and recommendations (r) from 2017 and 2018 are:

  • (f) Culture and values impact what a Marine will do under stress.

    • (r) Create a culture in which seeking help and self-improvement are not harmful or signs of “weakness.”

  • (f) Many Marines who died by suicide were high-performers.

    • (r) Use same level of engaged leadership with high-performers; use the Force Preservation Council to monitor high performers who have experienced a mistake or a “fall from glory.”

  • (f) There is not one specific stressor that definitively leads to suicide.

    • (r) Use the FPCs and know your Marines. Everyday stressors include relationship problems, financial difficulties, pending disciplinary actions, mental health issues.

  • (f) Many Marines who died by suicide had sleep issues and chronic pain.

    • (r) Talk with the unit medical officers; be aware of Marines with sleep issues or chronic pain; learn signs for dangerous side effects of sleep and pain medications.

  • (f) Most of the Marines who died by suicide had not sought help.

    • (r) Create a culture in which seeking help and self-improvement are normal, smart decisions; making mental check-ups common and acceptable as physical exams; and discuss how death by suicide is preventable.

In the first eight months of 2018, 43 Marines died by suicide (35 AC, 8 RC). This year, in that same timeframe, 33 Marines have died by suicide (27 AC, 6 RC). The Marine Corps is committed to continue working alongside the Navy Bureau of Medicine, US Marine Corps Health Services, sister services, and the Defense Suicide Prevention Office to identify ways to reduce the number of suicides to zero.

Maj. Craig Thomas

Headquarters Marine Corps