About 75 Marines across active and reserve Marine forces ended their own lives in 2018.
That figure is the highest it has been in 10 years, the Corps says.
The majority of those cases include younger Marines who have not deployed or seen combat. Roughly 63 percent of the suicides in the Corps in 2018 were Marines 25 years old or younger.
According to Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, it was 57 active-duty and 18 reserve Marines who committed suicide in 2018. The Corps says the figures include verified and suspected suicides. Out of the active-duty Marines, 44 cases were confirmed as suicides with 13 suspected and pending verification by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.
The Marine Corps' suicide rate, first reported by CNN, portends a serious health crisis across the Corps. The reasons for the increase, the Corps says, are complex and there is no one known root cause.
But the Marine Corps says it is hard at work trying to mitigate future suicides while researching suspected causes. It is working with the DoD, other services branches and Navy Bureau of Medicine to help stymie suicides across the force.
“The majority of Marines who die by suicide have no known history of seeking behavioral health care,” Maj. Craig Thomas, a spokesman with Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
Starting early in 2019, the Corps will participate in a study called the Defense Suicide Prevention Office Suicide Death Review Pilot.
That pilot will review 10 suicide cases in the Marine Corps from 2018 and will analyze various domains for each person’s military service, demographics, substance use history, biopsychosocial stressors, and physical and psychiatric health care services utilization.
The Corps is also in the process of rewriting Marine Corps Order 1720.2, Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program, to provide additional guidance on what to do following a death, providing support and preventing future suicides.
The Marines also continue to review data involving suicides that are used to address policy, guidance and suicide prevention analysis, according to Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
The Corps has a slew of training initiatives and outreach programs regarding suicide and suicide prevention:
• Unit Marine Awareness and Prevention Integrated Training 2.0 ― This training initiative helps educate Marines about suicide awareness, early warning signs, risk factors and responsibility for intervention when a Marine or service member is showing potential signs they might harm themselves.
• Marine Intercept Program ― This voluntary care program helps Marines and sailors who have experienced thoughts of suicide or attempted suicide.
•Marine Specific Crisis Resource ― This Marine-specific call center provides video or phone chat for anonymous and nonmedical solution-based counseling for a variety of life stressors. The DSTRESS Line phone number is (1-877-476-7734).
• Operational Stress Control and Readiness ― The OSCAR training program builds Marine leaders, medical and religious personnel within battalion-sized units. The training helps units tackle issues related to combat and operational stress.
• Community Counseling Program ―This program helps provide counseling services for Marines, sailors and their families related to stress.
“Suicide is a serious public health problem that has lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities,” Thomas said.
“The Marine Corps has a critical role in educating Marines and their families about suicide prevention, the value of mental health, and services available to help Marines and their families navigate through the stressors of life."
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.