September and Military Suicide Prevention
Since September is Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to take a moment to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing our military and veterans communities: military suicide. As Vice-Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have the privilege to serve our nation’s heroes by ensuring they have access to the resources they need when they return home. Unfortunately, as the war in Iraq has come to a close and the conflict in Afghanistan continues, we have seen a sharp rise in suicide rates among these populations. It is important for our service members and veterans, as well as their families, friends and loved ones, to know what resources are available when they are in need.
To address increasing rates in military suicide, Congress has authorized the Department of Defense to provide a mental health professional to assist active duty service members in navigating these issues. Similarly, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been authorized to increase the number of mental health professionals they have on staff. In addition, the Military Crisis Line and the Veterans Crisis Line, offer 24-hour support for all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve and veterans, even if they are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care. Free, confidential counseling with a trained VA staff member is only a phone call, text message or email away. The VA’s website also includes a number of resources for veterans and their families.
As we mark Suicide Prevention Month, we must come together to address these important issues by raising awareness for suicide prevention resources and helping others seek the treatment they need.