Legislation To Decrease Military Suicides Near Passage

Dec 8, 2014

Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr., Chicago District commander, speaks to Sen. Joe Donnelly during a Congressional Staff tour at Brandon Road Lock and Dam, Joliet, Ill., April 22, 2014.
Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District / https://www.flickr.com/photos/usacechicago/

Indiana U-S Senator Joe Donnelly says legislation nearing passage will be an enormous help in preventing suicide among military service members. 

More than three thousand active duty soldiers have taken their lives since 2001.

The rate of suicide among National Guard members has grown more than any other military branch in the last five years.  That’s why legislation Donnelly authored requires annual mental health assessments for all service members – including members of the National Guard and reservists.  Donnelly says the bill also includes strong privacy protections, an important component in combating suicide.

“In the past we’ve found the situation that some folks were afraid to talk to people because they thought, ‘Hey I might not make sergeant or I might not make the next promotion.'  This makes sure that that can’t happen,” says Donnelly.

He says the next step will be providing help for more than just active duty service members:

“The next step we want to take and make sure we have is for our veterans we have an overall comprehensive program for suicide prevention, to end homelessness for our veterans,” says Donnelly.

Donnelly’s bill was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed last week.  Donnelly says he expects Senate approval by the end of the year.