“You need to come to NCIS, now.”
I ran through a list in my head of what this could be about. Why was my husband at NCIS in the first place? What did I do? My heart was in my throat as I quickly walked through the doors and saw my mountain of a Marine husband look up at me in tears. There was no training in the world that could prepare me for what he said next.
We’ve all been to the Annual Suicide Prevention Training and heard the stereotypes associated with those considering suicide; they drink too much, hide away in their room, and exhibit other depressing behaviors.
The reality is someone may never show these signs we are trained to look for.
The last time I saw him we laughed until we cried, we went out in town, and he hugged my husband and I before he walked out the door, and out of our lives.
Understand our loved ones considering suicide may not broadcast it to the world. Understand that if you don’t catch the signs, it’s not your fault.
I still struggle with guilt. I should have known. He hated hugs. The moment he gave us a hug, I should have stopped him right there and talked to him. There should have been bells and sirens going off, but instead I was so happy and felt so loved because he shared that small physical connection with us.
Realistically though, these are the signs we get. It’s not a large, flashing, neon sign saying “Hey, I’m thinking about suicide!” It’s tiny events that quietly whisper to us, “please, help.” Our world is so busy and loud, that these moments slip by unnoticed.
The Pentagon reported 265 active-duty service members killed themselves in 2015. In 2001, the suicide rate among us began rising significantly. It peaked in 2012 at 321. The Marine Corps began implementing our suicide prevention annual training that year. Since then suicide numbers have been slowly decreasing.
Training that brings awareness and fosters a culture of acceptance for Marines who have problems and are in distress has been a key factor in these numbers dwindling, but it’s not foolproof. Sometimes there are people you just can’t reach in time, and that’s not your fault.
The Marine Corps understands the difficulty of losing someone to suicide and has resources for us. You can find them here.
Don’t let the guilt consume you, talk to someone.
Story by Cpl. Jessica Collins