An annual Pentagon report on suicide in the military released last week revealed that the United States Marine Corps has the highest rate of active-duty suicides in the military branches.
The annual report measures suicide rates per 100,000 service members in order to account for the different sizes of the various military branches, according to Military.com. The report indicated that the total number of military suicides was 492, which represented a decrease from the previous year’s report. However, active-duty deaths saw a slight increase, with 331 suicides in 2022.
According to the Department of Defense report, the “2022 Annual Report on Suicide in the Military” showed that the Marine Corps had its highest rate of active-duty suicide since 2011, with 61 total deaths, representing 34.9 deaths per 100,000 Marines. Military.com reported that the Marine Corps has experienced an overall increase in suicide over the past decade, except for dips in 2019 and 2021.
Roughly 97% of individuals in the Marine Corps who committed suicide in 2022 were men, over 50% were between 20 and 24 years old, 90% were enlisted, and 82% were white.
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In contrast with the Marine Corps, the Pentagon’s report showed that Army, Navy, and Air Force suicide rates were each below 30 per 100,000 service members.
Military.com noted that the trend of increasing suicide rates, particularly in the Marine Corps, is a troubling reminder to the families of U.S. service members who have previously committed suicide.
Tanya Mort, a Gold star mother of a Marine who committed suicide in 2021, described the Marine Corps as “toxic” when she was informed of the increase in the Marine Corps suicide rate.
“It’s a pain that never goes away,” she told Military.com. “There’s regret, there’s guilt, there’s just unspeakable emotions every day … and you just sit and you just wonder how you could have saved him.”
Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Eric Smith, recently highlighted a lack of mental health professionals available to U.S. service members, claiming that the Marine Corps could look at anything from “professional help within our units to command climate” as areas of potential improvement in the service to address the growing issue of suicide.
“What we can do is ensure that Marines know that it is OK to ask for help, it does not injure your career,” Smith said.
Alongside Smith, Marine Corps Sergeant Major Carlos Ruiz released a video in September that addressed the pressing issue of suicide in the Marine Corps.
“We must create a culture where people can make mistakes, and yet they can get back up and not allow them, allow ourselves to beat ourselves down because of that mistake — that there is hope that they can get back up and try it again,” Ruiz said.