Dr. M. David Rudd PhD, speaks with Marines and Sailors about suicide awareness and prevention measures during the National Capitol Region Professional Leaders Conference at Marine Corps Base Quantico. (Photo by Stephen Collins)

MCA Hosts Leadership Conference on Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA July 26, 2023:  The Marine Corps Association, in conjunction with Marine Corps Base Quantico, hosted the National Capital Region Professional Leaders Conference on Suicide Awareness and Prevention for Leaders, at the Clubs of Quantico, on 25 July 2023. The purpose of the conference was to inform participants about suicide-related issues and trends impacting Marines and Sailors that senior leaders, care providers and families can address in today’s Marine Corps.

The conference, attended by over 175 participants from across the region explored topics on awareness, intervention, and the prevention of suicide, the effects of trauma on individuals, and the resources and support available for leaders. This is the second MCA Professional Leaders Conference, this year. The first was in late March at Camp Pendleton with the next event currently scheduled for September in Okinawa, Japan. Mrs. Marta Sullivan, MCA Director of Engagement & Outreach Integration, stated that these conferences serve as an excellent opportunity for leaders to share information and best practices.

“We’ve come together because we know that suicide within the services is a concerning phenomenon. So, we’re doing everything that we can at MCA to work with the Fleet Marine Force and our sponsors to provide resources and information about suicide prevention that could ultimately save the life of one of our Marines,” said Sullivan.

The conference included a group-oriented case study led by Colonel Melanie Bell-Carter and Dr. Sandy Morrison, Ph.D. from Headquarters Marine Corps’ Family Programs Division and a presentation by renowned expert Psychologist Dr. M. David Rudd, President Emeritus from the University of Memphis and Director of the Rudd Institute for Veteran/Military Suicide Prevention.

Additionally, Ms. Rebecca Cunningham, LCSW and Dr. Jessica Strickland, Psy.D. from the Quantico Behavioral Health Department, led a presentation and discussion on trauma-informed leadership. They were ollowed by Ms. Jackie Williams from Marine Corps Community Services who introduced the role non-medical counseling and associated resources available at MCB Quantico played in helping Marines. 

Overall, the conference provided a unique and great opportunity to include both medical and non-medical resources for awareness and prevention. Gunnery Sergeant Kimberly Benjamin of Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, who is also the unit’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention officer, found immense value in the event.

“It was really in-depth, and there was a fantastic mixture of academia with a basic understanding for those who didn’t have a background in medical, behavioral health or neuroscience. It helps to relay these ideas in layman’s terms so that we can actually take this information back and apply it at our commands,” said Benjamin.

Resources and support for Marines in the National Capital Region can be found at MCCS Behavioral Health at 703 784-3502.

In severe cases for anyone battling mental health in silence, there is the Veterans Crisis Line at 1 800-273 8255.