At a time when suicide rates among Marines are rising, two senior officers in the military branch are encouraging their rank and file members to get well spiritually.
First was Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who noted that more than 200 Marines have ended their lives since he took over command in 2015. He said “collective mental wellness” and spiritual fitness need to be sought to stop the epidemic.
“Let me be clear up front, there is zero shame in admitting one’s struggles with life – trauma, shame, guilt or uncertainty about the future – and asking for help,” he wrote.
He encouraged Marines to “create a balance between physical, mental, social and spiritual fitness.”
Then, the Marine Corp Times reported, Col. Dom D. Ford echoed the recommendations.
He’s commander of the Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School in Twentynine Palms, California.
He also encouraged Marines “to read more scripture” to enhance their religious and spiritual wellness.
“Suicide is a shameful act. Period. Getting help is not,” he told his Marines. “Life isn’t fair, and every day won’t be rainbows and sunshine.”
His email said mental health issues may be linked to a “godless age” and a fast-moving cultural with technological changes.
The current population in general, he said, is “less spiritually fit.”
So Marines should lose their “screen,” “send flowers instead of an emoji” and “attend a religious service — more than once.”
The Times reported that officials at Training and Education Command said they do not promote “any specific religious tradition or practice.”
But they also admitted, “Spiritual fitness has been shown to be an important part of overall well-being and promotes mission readiness.”
They emphasized that “the practice of religious beliefs is a personal decision.”
Both officers called out the “scourge” of social media as part of the complex root of suicide.
“Perhaps our culture is shifting away from a time when faith was a more central part of our lives – religious-based faith, a commitment to a greater cause, or just believing in each other, certainly a faith in something greater than ‘me,'” Neller explained.
And Ford cited a 2017 study that found fewer incidents of mental health problems, PTSD or depression among those who are more religiously active.
The Times report said the study linking higher levels of religious practice to fewer health problems was titled “Religion, spirituality, and mental health of U.S. military veterans: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study.”
Explained Neller: “To be clear, the Marine Corps exists for one purpose – to fight and win. … We win, both on and off the battlefield, because we maintain high standards and possess incredibly resolve, resilience, and grit.
“We must fight the battle of life’s struggles including mental illness, trauma, loss, and adversity with the same force and intensity that we fight all battles.”