News Details

New Program Aids Suicide Prevention, Intervention

by Jim Goodwin, Pentagram Editor

Published: Thursday 10 April, 2014

Marine commanders have a new tool to help ensure servicemembers who struggle with suicide receive needed follow-on treatment and access to resources.

The Marine Intercept Program is intended to complement existing Marine Corps prevention and treatment programs by providing an added layer of counseling and coordination for those identified with suicide ideations or who have attempted suicide, according to Marine and Family Programs Division officials.

Announced in February via Marine Administrative message 073-14, the program is meant to help “close any potential gaps” in care for those identified via a serious incident or personnel casualty report as having attempted suicide or having suicide ideation. Once a Sailor or Marine is identified by a formal command report as having a suicidal ideation or following an actual suicide attempt, a Marine Corps Community Counseling and Prevention Program (CCP) counselor makes contact with the identified person. That begins an “evidence-based safety plan and assessment of suicide risk,” according to Lt. Cmdr. Sam J. Stephens of the Community Counseling and Prevention Program..

From there, those identified by a command generated report are connected with professional counselors - graduate-level educated, state-licensed providers - who provide continuous “caring contacts” and coordination of care services, according to Stephens.

“The CCP counselor does not duplicate or replace - but rather augments - other behavioral health services by providing care coordination whenever needed,” said Stephens, who is also a U.S. Navy psychologist, via email. “They are equally capable and skilled in counseling as any behavioral health provider you would find outside of the installation gates world-wide.”

Local-level care

Although new, the program’s principle of urgent, continuous communication to foster long-term care stems from a similar approach taken by the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment, which began the practice of offering regular contact to Marines who experienced suicide ideation or previous suicide attempts.. Marine and Family Programs Division at Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps transferred that continual contact and care concept to the local level, implementing the CCP at major Marine Corps installations.

In other words, the counselor working with an individual Marine or Sailor is more than just a friendly voice at the other end of a 1-800 hotline.

“The individual accepting services receives regular contact from a caring voice,” said Stephens. “They are reminded that they are important, they are reminded that there is hope, and they have a partner in developing a strategy to stay safe.”

Locally, the program is managed by the Marine and Family Services Program office on the Henderson Hall portion of the joint base. The local program has two CCP counselors to support those assigned to Henderson Hall and Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps. The Marine and Family Programs office here can be reached at 703-614-7204.

While the program is not intended to replace the Corps’ current suicide prevention programs, it is meant to compliment the guidance and direction provided in Marine Corps Order 1720.2, the Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program.

“We would like those with suicidal thoughts to know: there is hope, getting help works, life changes, do not give up,” he said.

Communication, collaboration keys to success The program provides a systematic, collaborative approach to intervention and prevention, as detailed in the Marine administrative message. Specific roles and responsibilities are listed in the message, which charges Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps for contacting the appropriate local-level CCP and unit commander within 24 hours following receipt of a serious incident or personnel casualty report. Battalion and squadron commanders are directed to provide assistance in ensuring the assigned CCP counselor makes contact with the identified servicemember.

Moreover, CCP counselors recommend courses of action to support at-risk Marines and Sailors, including collaboration with outside agencies, such as military units and behavioral health service providers.

In fact, communication is the key ingredient to ensuring success of the program, according to Stephens. Counselors are in contact with the identified servicemember a minimum of six times, according to the Marine administrative message.

“Communication...has been purposefully built in to all aspects of MIP,” said Stephens. “Maintaining communication with the command is necessary to keep Marines where they are valued.”

To that end, Stephens encourages commanders and other unit leaders to improve the chances of successful intervention by completing serious incident and personnel casualty reports in a timely manner. In turn, such timely reporting can help decrease stigmas about suicide, encourage help-seeking and foster a “highly collaborative approach” to the program, he said.

Original Article