News Details

Donnelly introduces military suicide prevention bill

Source: WTHI
Published: Friday 26 April, 2013

WASHINGTON D.C. (WANE) - Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) has introduced his bill as Indiana's freshman senator.

On Thursday, Sen. Donnelly introduced the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2013 . The bill, if passed, would institute a pilot program to help members of the military with mental illness.

Sen. Donnelly gave a speech on the floor and talked about military statistics regarding suicide.

“In 2012, approximately 349 members of the United States Military, including active duty, Guard, and Reserve, committed suicide, more than the total number of service members who died in combat operations,” said Donnelly. “This number does not even include the more than 6,000 veterans who committed suicide in 2012. This is unacceptable. This has to end."

Read the full Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2013

Since the Department of Veterans Affairs began keeping a close eye on suicides by military members, more than 30,000 members have committed suicide since 2009.

The proposed bill would randomly select 1,000 members from each service branch, and 500 members from each reserve branch, including the National Guard. The Department of Defense would then report to Congress 180 days after all testing was completed.

The program would provide assessments of mental health during military member's Periodic Health Assessment (PHA). It would help identify factors, combat related or otherwise, the lead to suicide. It would also provide supervisors with a line of support who are closer to members than health professionals.

Sen. Donnelly named the bill after Indiana National Guardsman Jacob Sexton.

“I named this bill after a member of the Indiana National Guard, Jacob Sexton, a native of Farmland, Indiana, who tragically took his own life in 2009 while home on a 15-day leave from Afghanistan…My hope is that we can help men and women like Jacob who are struggling with mental health issues, to get them the help they need before they resort to taking their own life," Donnelly said on the Senate floor Thursday.

Military suicide facts provided by Sen. Donnelly's office:

• 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.

The bill must still go through readings before being introduced to committee. If it passes committee, it would then be debate on the Senate floor before any action would be taken.