Today, Representative Ann Marie Buerkle, Chairwoman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health, made the following statement in recognition of September as Suicide Prevention Month:
"Throughout my first term in Congress, I have been committed to raising awareness of the serious mental health issues facing the veteran and military communities. I have held numerous oversight hearings on different facets of the Department of Veterans Affairs' mental health care system as Chair of the Subcommittee on Health and worked hard to break down barriers to care and bring together all of the facets of our community to better support those in need.
"The sad reality is that the numbers of veteran and active-duty suicides are on the rise. Most soldiers who experience multiple deployments will suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or another mental health condition. Ensuring the men and women who serve our country have access to quality services that help them cope with the wounds of war is our duty as Americans.
"No one entity alone can take on this issue. Rather it will take a partnership of government, private sector, educational institutions, and faith-based entities to help our veterans, military, and their families thrive. We must all come together to work on behalf of all of our veterans, particularly those dealing with the invisible wounds of war.
"Hopefully, Suicide Prevention Month will inspire people everywhere to work to erase the stigma of mental illness and to raise awareness about the mental health services that are available."
Representative Buerkle serves as Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health, where she has made mental health a top priority. Earlier this summer Buerkle hosted a Member briefing on Veteran Students' Mental Health with David Rudd, PhD, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science and Scientific Director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah.
In April of this year, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, in cooperation with Rep. Buerkle, held a Conference on Engaging Community Support for Veterans. Attended by more than 150 people, the conference served as opportunity to harness the power of community in supporting, engaging, and respecting our nation's veterans and their families and featured panel discussions related to veterans' health and wellness, employment, and education. The conference was designed to equip community leaders with the tools and resources they need to help veterans reintegrate into society.
Last year, Rep. Buerkle and the American Psychological Association (APA) partnered to host a symposium on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Syracuse.