As Memorial Day approaches, I write to update you on an important issue involving America's brave men and women serving in uniform. In recent years, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of suicides among members of our Armed Forces. While the military services are making significant efforts to address this issue, a recent Department of Defense (DOD) Task Force found there are wide variations in the implementation of preventive services across the various branches.
To help reverse this truly heartbreaking trend, earlier this year I introduced legislation designed to enhance the suicide prevention programs offered by the DOD. The Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act of 2011 specifically requires suicide prevention training for service men and women in all branches of the military during recruit basic training, routine mental health assessments, and pre-separation counseling. I am hopeful that by providing suicide prevention training to service members in all branches, during all phases of their military careers, we can reduce the number of tragedies our military families face.
The Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act requires that each military suicide prevention training session include, at a minimum:
* Methods for recognizing risk factors for suicide;
* Protocols for responding to crisis situations involving members who may be at high risk;
* Information about suicide prevention services available to members (including toll-free hotlines and Internet resources); and
* Information for best practices for suicide prevention.
As an Army veteran myself, I am all too aware of the hardships our military men and women and their families endure to protect our country. Our service members deserve access to the very best care possible. In order for our nation to better uphold our end of the bargain, we must do a better job of providing members of the Armed Forces with the preventive care and skills they need to recognize suicide risk factors, and get help.
JOE BACA, Congressman
43rd Congressional District