For One Marine Unit, Suicide Has Become Commonplace

'Why our battalion? I’m at a damn loss'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2015 4:51 PM CST
For One Marine Unit, Suicide Has Become Commonplace
Marines perform during a Battle Color Ceremony in California earlier this year.   (AP Photo/The Victor Valley Daily Press, James Quigg)

The New York Times has a tragic look at a former Marine who killed himself—the 14th member of his unit to do so—earlier this month and why the government doesn't seem to be able to do more to address the mental health of veterans. Tyler Schlagel, 29, returned from Afghanistan with his battalion in 2008. Three weeks ago he went to his favorite fishing spot in the Rockies, built a campfire, and shot himself. Schlagel had seen his best friend killed in an especially horrific suicide bombing, but was still the last person any of his fellow Marines thought would kill himself. Sadly, he's far from alone. Since 2008, 14 members of his 1,200-member unit have committed suicide, with many others attempting to do so.

The suicide rate for Schlagel's battalion is 4 times higher than the average for veterans and 14 times higher than for the American population as a whole, the Times reports. “Why our battalion? I’m at a damn loss," another battalion member posted on Facebook. Critics say the problem is the gap in responsibility. The military is only responsible for active members, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is only responsible if veterans come in. "They set up all these hotlines and things for guys to get help," says one battalion member who tried to commit suicide twice. "But what do you do when most of the guys don’t want help?” Instead, members of Schlagel's unit are trying to form a support group for each other. "The VA can’t fix it," a battalion member posted on Facebook. "We have to fix it." Read the full story here. (Read more suicide stories.)

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