WASHINGTON On Wednesday, Senator Joe Donnelly announced that he will be introducing the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014.
Sexton, an Indiana native and a National Guard specialist, took his life while home on a 15-day leave from Afghanistan.
"In 2012, we lost 522 men and women in uniform to suicide," Donnelly began. "Last year, it is estimated we lost more than 470 servicemembers, and I’m hearing from military leaders that many branches are seeing record numbers of suicides so far in 2014. That is not counting the thousands of veterans who take their lives each year."
Donnelly says this bill would require assessments for all servicemembers—Active, Reserve, and Guard.
"Right now, the best and most consistent screening is happening only for those within the deployment cycle, and it leaves Reservists and Guardsmen, like Jacob, underserved," he explains.
Second, the bill establishes a working group from the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to review current practices and make recommendations on how to improve mental health services for the National Guard.
"In the National Guard, despite improvements elsewhere, we continue to see suicide rates climb. This working group needs to report back to Congress so we can expand what’s working and eliminate what’s not," Donnelly explains.
Finally, the bill emphasizes privacy protections for service members, "ensuring that we stick to our word when we say that seeking help is a sign of strength—to be commended, not punished."
To learn about the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 and to find out ways you can help a family member or a friend who needs help, visit donnelly.senate.gov/preventsuicide.