A very real look at suicides in the Coast Guard

MK3 Alexander Diaz and MCPOCG Steve Cantrell
MK3 Alexander Diaz and MCPOCG Steve Cantrell

According to the latest statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 and over. In 2010 alone, there were 38,364 suicides in the U.S., an average of 105 each day.

Graphic courtesy the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
Graphic courtesy the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

As such, your Coast Guard leadership has released a series of short videos, each looking at suicide from a slightly different scope.

But, amongst all of them, the following themes prevail: there is hope; every one of you is valued in our organization; and there are resources available that can help.

So, take care of yourself and seek help when it’s needed. And, keep a close watch on your colleagues, intervening as necessary.

“We will never know how one kind word or one simple act of compassion can make a huge difference when someone feels he or she has reached a breaking point,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven W. Cantrell. “So, I am asking each of you to be engaged and look for those signs in those that you work and live with.”

“Know that this month – and every month and every day of the year – we can save a life by looking out for our shipmates,” said Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, Coast Guard commandant.

Watch as Zukunft describes his, and our, Duty to People as it relates to suicides in our service and our personal lives:


Click to see Cantrell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexander Diaz, a suicide survivor who has agreed to share his story, talk about the reality of suicides:


Watch as Capt. Gregory Todd, chaplain of the U.S. Coast Guard, reveals the two factors always present in a suicide and explains what we can do to overcome them:


2 comments on “A very real look at suicides in the Coast Guard”

  1. Thank you for this important information. Sometimes, people feel very stressed, sad or trapped. When this happens, it feels like there is no hope and that no one cares–that things can never get better. It feels like you have no choice but to end it all. That is a very desperate way to feel since you can’t visualize any other alternatives. But remember that “feelings” are not “facts; there is help out there and there is hope. Here’s another way to look at it. If you are out to sea and and a storm comes up, it is just common sense to secure your lifeline and keep yourself safe until you get back into calmer waters–same thing here: find a way to secure your lifeline until you get back into calmer emotional waters. As the spouse of a retired CG member and a psychiatric nurse, I hope that anyone who is feeling overwhelmed and having thoughts of self-harm will reach out to someone: work life, a chaplain, corpsman, spouse, best friend, counselor, a nurse–anyone. Being in the Coast Guard is hard and often dangerous work; we all know someone who has died in the line of duty or through illness. It is very painful for those who are left behind to mourn their loss; but it is extraordinarily difficult to cope when a death through suicide is so preventable. Don’t wait–talk to someone who can help–right now. Regina Asaro, Co-Author, MILITARY WIDOW: A Survival Guide

  2. Well, it’s pretty imminent with the DHS lapse in funds that the suicide rate is only going to sky rocket until this situation is resolved. People will lose homes and not be able to take of their families, broken relationships and bankruptcy will ensue. It is sad our government is basically forcing suicide upon our service members.

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