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Sep 27, 2022

B.D.F. in Crisis Mode with Soldiers Having Suicidal Tendencies

Micah Miguel & Damacio Coc

On Monday we brought you the story of Belize Defense Force Captain Damacio Coc who was found hanging from a bed sheet inside his cell at the Belize Central Prison. His was the second suicide in about two months that the B.D.F. has suffered, the first being that of Private Micah Miguel. Captain Coc was remanded for a month after he allegedly violated a restraining order regarding a domestic situation and was scheduled to have a bail hearing this Thursday as he awaited trial. Kolbe Foundation’s C.E.O., Virgilio Murillo told News Five on Monday that prison authorities saw no signs that Coc had suicidal tendencies. Well neither did his comrades in the force. But what’s even more concerning is that the past two suicides involving B.D.F. members is that more of them have shown similar tendencies. Marion Ali reports.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Belize’s comrades-in-arms mostly looked upon as disciplined men and women that make up the Belize Defense Force are reeling from the loss of two of their colleagues in as many months – the mode of death, suicide. Sunday’s discovery inside B.D.F. Captain Damacio Coc’s cell at Tango Ten at the Belize Central Prison came as a shock not only to prison guards but also to his fellow officers at Price Barracks.


Jermaine Burns

Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns, Chief of Staff, B.D.F.

“There wasn’t a time that he would grow angry over a lot that I pressured him with. He got the work done and he was a jovial individual. He laughed a lot. We had some good social times as well. The suicide paradigm is – sometimes you just can’t tell; you just can’t tell.”


Damacio Coc

Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns, who is the B.D.F’s Chief of Staff, told reporters today that the men and women who stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Captain Coc are impacted by the incident. Counseling sessions are extended to them, through the Ministry of Health and Wellness and otherwise.


Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns

“Where we have to reach out to professionals from the private sector then we’ll have to pay accordingly for their services. But it is important that we get the unit that he was directly in charge of into grieving. The organization is grieving, still from Micah and now Damacio.”


Juliet Simmons is a psychologist in the Ministry of Health & Wellness who deals with these kinds of issues regularly. Depression is one of the leading factors of suicidal tendencies, she says, and in 2021 alone, the statistics were concerning.


Juliet Simmons

Juliet Simmons, Psychologist, Ministry of Health & Wellness

“We had thirty-one completed suicides. In the past five, four years ago we used to have in the low twenties so this is – that was an increase.”


MIcah Miguel

Since the death of Private Micah Miguel in late July, the B.D.F. is now trying to prevent what is called suicide ideation – a concept familiar among psychologists that results in causal sequence, or what Burns refers to as a copycat mentality. But he admitted that the B.D.F. is struggling with more than a concept but instead, a crisis situation.


Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns

“I’m sure you’ve seen this on social media – a couple guys either saying that they’re tired of living and by saying that, according to the Colombian Rating Suicide Scale, just saying it is near an attempt. In a group of about fifty, we had at least fifteen to sixteen that were near the edge of ideation. So that raised an alarm for us. If you have in an organization of two thousand, and you have five to ten people that have suicide ideation you have a crisis. We’ve had two or three incidents since Micah’s passing that came near attempt or attempt and we have had to restrict those folks to barracks.”


The soldiers who have shown outward signs of suicidal ideation have been under psychological therapy, and depending on their mental state, they will be assessed by a psychiatrist. But what pushes people to want to end their life? Dr. Simmons warns that depression is one of the leading factors of suicide.


Juliet Simmons

“Once somebody has depression or severe depression, it’s highly likely they will have suicidal thoughts. And once there attempt – one person has attempted once, the risk is even greater for that person.”

Whatever triggered Captain Coc to take his life will never be known. His family has asked that the autopsy on his body be postponed until his mother is here for that procedure. Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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