US Marine and Navy suicides at a 10-year high

The number of confirmed and suspected suicides in the active-duty Marine Corps and the Navy reached a 10-year high in 2018.

Sixty-eight active duty Navy personnel died by suicide in 2018 with 57 cases among the Marine Corps, according to data obtained by CNN.

Another 18 Marines in the Reserve forces either are confirmed to have committed suicide or their deaths are being investigated as suspected suicides.

Marine Corps sources say the service is concerned that 2018 may have seen 75 suicides even with the extensive mental health programs available. Many of the cases are young Marines who have not deployed overseas and have not been in combat — a situation that has been seen in other branches of the military as well.

“Don’t make them just numbers,” one Marine Corps official pleaded when making the data available to CNN.

Navy officials say they remain focused on suicide prevention programs.

On Friday the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, released a four-page message to the corps detailing new advances and developments. But near the end he spoke in detail about Marines taking their own lives and implored troubled troops to reconsider any drastic actions.

“I am personally compelled to say something about suicide and mental health,” Neller said in the message. “If you need help, please ask/speak up … we will be there for you. Consider the lasting impact on your family, friends, and unit — none of whom will ever truly recover. Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem that can be resolved with the help of your teammates.”

The corps began tracking suicides in the Reserves in detail only in 2012, so the 10-year high is confirmed only in the active-duty forces. The numbers have fluctuated in recent years — which is also a trend the military has struggled to understand, without firm answers emerging — with often-unexplained spikes in the numbers of cases.

And suicide continues to touch all ranks in the military. Late last year, Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, the top admiral overseeing US naval forces in the Middle East, died of an apparent suicide.

“While there is no dishonor in coming up short, or needing help, there is no honor in quitting,” Neller said in his message. “For those who are struggling … our Marine Corps, our families, and our Nation need you; we can’t afford to lose you.”