Stop it before it happens: Suicide

11 Sep 2012 | Pfc. Joshua W. Grant

Thirty-three Marines committed suicide in 2011. Nearly an entire platoon of Marines, thirty-three deaths would severely cripple an infantry company fighting in Afghanistan.

This year’s suicide prevention week, Sept. 9 to 15, highlights the importance of suicide prevention for the military community.

It’s the detrimental and devastating effects of suicide driving Marine Corps Community Services Resilience Education branch to train and help individuals recognize signs of distress.

Robin Schoolfield, the Resilience Education branch head, said the real goal of suicide prevention is to get through to individuals thinking about suicide before an attempt is ever made.

“We don’t need stats, we don’t need numbers, we know it’s a problem,” said Schoolfield.

Empowering the public and bi-standers to take action when someone’s in distress, and knowing what to do in the situation is the goal of the Recognize, Act, Care and Escort program stated Schoolfield.

RECOGNIZE: Observe and understand the signs of distress. Changes in personality, emotions, behavior, withdrawal from relationships, and changes in eating or sleeping patterns can all be signs of distress or possible suicide.


ASK: Ask about the changes occurring. In an un-obtrusive manor ask why the person seems distressed, and most importantly, ask directly if the person is thinking of killing or hurting themselves.


CARE: Show the Marine or individual you care. Listen without prejudice, and use resources such as the chaplain or emergency services.


ESCORT: Escort the person in distress to help. Make them feel safe and never leave the individual alone until they have professional help.

Sharing the same acronym as the Marine Corps R.A.C.E program, Schoolfield said, “It works best to keep everyone is speaking the same language.”

The two hour training program is open to Marines, their families and anyone in the community. It does not count toward the Marines’ yearly training requirement, but it does instill invaluable knowledge when preventing suicide.

The program consists of teaching the R.A.C.E. acronym, but more importantly it teaches the community how to ask the tough question, said Schoolfield. Through role-playing, the program gives individuals the ability to ask the unorthodox question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself.”

The program compares to a first-aid or CPR course. Students don’t just sit in a CPR course learning what a heart attack is, but rather learn how to recognize the signs of the problem and learn how to fix it.

Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Gorry, Commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East- Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune said, “Suicide is not an individual act. Suicide affects the entire unit, the entire command.”

The act of suicide is a final act and will affect co-workers, fellow service members and family members for their entire lives.

Suicide is a serious issue. Through training and courage individuals can recognize, act, care and escort those suffering to get the help they need.