In the Marine Corps, I believe we talk too much about suicide. Over the past year I’ve had to take no less than seven suicide-prevention classes. Is the idea to teach us how to do it? In one recent class, statistics were given showing that white males aged 18 to 24 in the infantry are the mostly likely candidates, and they usually use violent means such as a handgun. Also, they almost always succeed. But this is a skewed depiction of the data. An overwhelming majority of infantryman are white males in this age group. So this class taught me that as a white male infantryman aged 18 to 24, I am susceptible to suicide. And if I try, I must succeed via violent means.
The Committee on Public Education found suicide to be the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, among people aged 15 to 24.1 With most military members in this age group, an additional complication is what researcher M.S. Gould calls “suicide contagion or clusters.”2 It is not a new phenomenon. Evidence of suicide clusters and imitative deaths has been reported from ancient times through the 20th century.