CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines and Sailors come together to strike out their annual training during the Warrior Tournament and Resource Fair here, Sept. 25, 2015.
Instead of a classroom, Marines and Sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF, and 3rd Marine Division united to play softball, football and tug of war while learning about suicide prevention and the resources available to address this serious topic.
“One of the top causes of suicide is the lack of a social outlet … Hopefully, the Marines and Sailors leave this event with new friends and connections with the representatives,” said Candace Bernard, the behavioral health analyst for 3rd Marine Division.
Understanding suicide warning signs and risk factors can empower individuals to help identify, prevent and intervene early enough to save lives. Some of the warning signs include, but are not limited to, anxiety, mood changes and withdrawal.
“Not only was today a fun day at work, it was also a very productive one,” said Pfc. Sean J. Bishop, a sensor support man with Headquarters Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. “Being able to come out here, have fun and build relationships with people I may need to depend on one day was worth every second.”
Annual training is usually taught in a classroom environment, through slideshows, as Marines and Sailors fight to stay awake while trying to process a seemingly endless flow of information.
“This event is more interactive,” said Sgt. Heidy Flores, an operations non-commissioned officer with Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “Talking face-to-face with the representatives and being able to get to know who they are is going to be very helpful to those in need.”
Suicide continues to be a serious concern for Marines and Sailors stationed in Okinawa, according to Bernard, who is from Tallahassee, Florida. Social isolation, work stressors and limited knowledge of local resources are all factors that place service members at risk. The Warrior Tournament and Resource Fair provide a venue for Marines and Sailors to socialize with their peers and learn about area resources.
“Suicide is 100 percent preventable, and every voice matters,” said Bernard. “You cannot control what is going on in peoples' lives, but we can inform service members of the available resources so they can reach out.”