Make help easier to get for veterans

South Bend Tribune

It was just a few days ago when the community honored all those who have served in the military by celebrating Veterans Day.

Now as memories of that day fade, it’s fitting that another issue facing veterans — past and present — isn’t forgotten.

Every day in this country 20 veterans commit suicide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s a startling statistic but one that Congress has taken steps to try and address.

The Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Act passed in 2014 offers mental health services for all active duty, reserve and National Guard service members.

Now Congress is considering S. 1015, sponsored by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch and co-sponsored by Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, that seeks to address suicide in this country generally and among service members in particular.

The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to study the feasibility of designating a three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system, as well as studying the effectiveness of the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), including how well it addresses the needs of veterans.

According to the Department of Defense, there were 76 suicides among active duty military personnel in the fourth quarter of 2016. There were 20 suicides among reservists and 30 suicides by members of the National Guard.

Congress has already passed laws requiring the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs medical providers to receive regular training in suicide risk recognition and management, as well as developing a designation for private-sector and community providers that demonstrate “strong knowledge” of the medical needs of troops and veterans.

Making it easier for service members to get help in times of crisis is another step that Congress can take to honor this nation’s commitment to care for those who have fought for our freedoms.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].