By Mark Walker
With active-duty Marines taking their own lives at a near-record pace this year, officials are launching a long-planned study of what troops who have committed suicide were doing in the days leading up to their deaths.
Officials are also taking a deep look at the service’s“Never Leave a Marine Behind” suicide prevention program to see whether it needs tailoring.
The two actions come as the Marine Corps reported eight suicides in July, the highest number recorded this year.
Those deaths raised this year’s self-inflicted death toll to 32, the same number recorded for all of 2011. If the monthly trend continues, the Marine Corps could match or exceed the record 52 active-duty troop suicides recorded in 2009.
The “forensic” study of recent suicides is designed as a detailed examination of what the troops were doing throughout each day leading to the event.
“We’re really anxious to see what we can learn from reaching out to family members and friends and using (investigative) reports,” said Todd Shuttleworth, who oversees the Marine Corps’ suicide prevention program from the service’s headquarters in Quantico, Va.
The wealth of information the study aims to generate will help guide officials in evaluating current efforts and shaping changes or new initiatives, he said.
“We want to effectively be able to teach Marines the warning signs and how to seek help early, before a situation becomes a crisis, and teach them that it is OK to ask for help,” Shuttleworth said during a telephone interview last week.