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Suicide Prevention Month

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Arizona for organizing this Special Order.

This is an issue that is very close to me as well, and I want to join the rest of my colleagues here today in recognizing September as Veterans' Suicide Prevention Month.

As my colleague mentioned, a veteran in this country commits suicide every 65 minutes. That's 22 lives extinguished every day. As a father of a veteran, as a doctor who has worked at the VA hospital in northern Michigan for over 20 years, and as the chairman of the Health Subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs, I know that the challenges of military life do not end once our servicemembers retire from active duty. The mental wounds of war may be invisible, but no less real to the young men and women suffering from them.

Facing high unemployment rates, the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder and a loss of military fellowship, returning veterans often face a crisis of confidence at the very moment they should feel nothing but relief and rest. This year, we will bring 34,000 troops home from Afghanistan. The President has indicated he may withdraw all of the 63,000 member strong force by the end of 2014. The time to act to address this epidemic of veteran suicide is now.

I am pleased that VA leadership has made veteran suicide a priority. New programs putting researchers to work on reviewing health records for suicide risk factors is one example of the important steps that are being taken, but more--much more--needs to be done. We cannot and we will not allow 22 suicides a day to become the ``new normal.''

As friends and families of our veterans and those serving our country, there are some things we all can do. We can work to recognize the symptoms that could indicate serious problems and identify where and how to get assistance when we need it.

To all veterans who are struggling as to whether to take their own lives, know that there is no shame in asking for help. You are not broken, and God has not forgotten you. You volunteered to go to war for us, and we have failed to provide you adequate support when you returned home. That is changing, and I beg you to reach out to your local VA, veterans center, veterans service organization, or local Member of Congress for help.

Together, we can begin to turn the tide on veteran suicide. Everyone can help fight this epidemic and be there for those who were there for us.

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