Senator Joe Donnelly, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement recognizing Suicide Prevention Month. World Suicide Prevention Day is Tuesday, September 10.
"It's very important we take this month as an opportunity to recognize and discuss suicide prevention," said Donnelly. "Suicide should never be the solution, and I urge those in need to seek out help instead of resorting to this tragic action. We can show support to those in need by spreading the word about confidential and free resources available, such as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Military and Veterans Crisis Line.
"Servicemembers and veterans of our military who may suffer from post-traumatic stress are uniquely vulnerable, and it is our obligation and priority to support our heroes through this challenge. I am working in the Senate to improve mental health screenings for servicemembers and to enhance their access to resources such as counseling, without fear of negative effects on their careers. I hope servicemembers and veterans who need help know that they can always reach out. Veterans' organizations in Indiana and across the country are ready to offer their services. If you need assistance and don't know where to turn, please contact my office where we have information ready for you and are waiting to help."
Senator Donnelly's first bill as U.S. Senator was the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2013, which would establish a pilot program in each of the military services and reserve components to integrate comprehensive annual mental health assessments into a servicemember's Periodic Health Assessment and identify risk factors for mental illness so that servicemembers can access preventative care. More recently, Donnelly successfully advocated for a study in the Senate Armed Services Committee's version of this year's National Defense Authorization Act that would assess the design and possible implementation of the pilot program in the Jacob Sexton Act.
* According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Center for Disease Control, at least 30,137 veterans and military members committed suicide since the Department of Defense began closely tracking these incidents in 2009.
* In 2012 alone, approximately 349 members of the United States Military (active duty, Guard, and Reserve) committed suicide, which is more than the total number of servicemembers who died in combat operations. This number does not include the more than 6,000 veterans who committed suicide in 2012.
* According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office at the Department of Defense, since they began keeping detailed records in 2008, less than half of the suicide victims had deployed and few were involved in combat. Research has shown other risk factors, such as relationships, legal or financial issues and alcohol or drug usage play a larger role than a servicemember's deployment history. Further, many of these suicide victims did not communicate their intent, nor did they have known behavioral health histories.