Ten Organizations Endorse Donnelly-Wicker Bipartisan Military Suicide Prevention Legislation

Effort Earns Backing of Military Service, Veteran and Mental Health Organizations

May 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — Legislation introduced by Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., received endorsements from 10 organizations today.  Sens. Wicker and Donnelly, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014, which would advance efforts in military suicide prevention. 

The Sexton Act  has garnered the support of the following military service, veteran and mental health organizations: the National Guard Association of the United States; the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; the Association of the United States Navy; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA); Military Officers Association of America (MOAA);  the Reserve Officers Association; the Brain Injury Association of America; Resurrecting Lives Foundation; Honor for All; and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, President of the National Guard Association of the United States, said, “The increase in suicides in our ranks is more than a serious problem; it’s a symptom of a national mental health crisis. We have to increase access to quality mental health care. The Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 does just that. The Guard community greatly appreciates the efforts of Senator Donnelly and Senator Wicker on this important, bipartisan legislation.” 

John Madigan, Vice President of Public Policy, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/SPAN USA, said, “The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention thanks Senator Joe Donnelly for his continued leadership on military suicide prevention. Providing service members both ongoing treatment and support for mental health issues should be America’s highest goal and objective.  Passage of the bipartisan Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 will go a long way towards addressing military suicide prevention honestly and directly.”

Anthony A. Wallis, Legislative Director of the Association of the United States Navy, said, “The Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) wholeheartedly supports S. 2300, the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014.  This bill would help in the reduction of the alarmingly high military suicide rate by requiring assessments for all servicemembers, Active, Reserve, and Guard, as well as by establishing a review of current practices and establishing privacy protections for servicemembers seeking help.  The alarming numbers of servicemembers and veterans who take their lives must be addressed and this bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senator Donnelly and Senator Wicker, is a step in the right direction.”

Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA, said, "IAVA applauds the bipartisan efforts of Senator Donnelly and Senator Wicker on this critically important issue. As part of our campaign to combat suicide, IAVA has encouraged Congress to ensure DOD is doing everything it can to monitor the mental health of servicemembers. This commonsense approach allows all military branches to ensure that mental health evaluations are a central tenet to DOD's responsibilities to its servicemembers."

Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, USN (Ret.), President of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), said, “Senator Donnelly’s Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 would establish needed uniform mental health care assessment standards across all  branches and components of the armed services. These standards will bolster the efforts of the individual services and ensure quality mental health screenings for every servicemember.”

Keith Weller, spokesman, Reserve Officers Association, said, “Today’s citizen warriors sign up for service in the Reserve and Guard with the clear understanding that their duty will carry unique burdens. They understand that they will enter a culture of service and a system of support that is ill-suited for the challenges presented by the duality of their lives in and out of uniform. The staggering rate of suicide among members of America’s Reserve and Guard is the result of ‘one size fits all’ mentality of prevention. Reserve service carries unique burdens and the challenges of post-deployment life and civilian transition are largely misunderstood by a public weary of war and a Congress strapped for cash. Reservists operate outside the cocoon of support found on Active duty installations. The Sexton Act is a solid first step towards providing the tailored research and targeted support our Reservists need and ultimately the parity in service they deserve.”

Susan Connors, President/CEO of the Brain Injury Association of America, said, “As a nation we have to understand what it takes to be a warrior. We ask young men and women to devote themselves to duty, honor our democratic ideals, and sacrifice their safety to protect our freedoms. In turn, we must be prepared to care for them in war and in peace.  The Brain Injury Association of America applauds Sen. Donnelly for taking positive action to ensure access to the best mental health care possible.”

Dr. Chrissane Gordon, Chairwoman and Founder, Resurrecting Lives Foundation, said, “The Resurrecting Lives Foundation commends Senator Donnelly on his bill's inclusion of traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment as a factor in suicide prevention.  A person who has suffered a TBI, like those sustained in IED blasts, is nearly eight times more likely to commit suicide than someone without such an injury.  Early identification and treatment of brain injuries is crucial for suicide reduction.”

Thomas Mahany, Executive Director, Honor for All, said, "We believe we must all act as one to demonstrate our common resolve against the perils of unattended and invisible wounds. Misunderstood and even mistrusted, these injuries cut across the fabric of society taking lives and destroying families. This is something we wish to stop. We are 100 percent in support of the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 and Senator Donnelly’s bipartisan effort to prevent military suicide.”

Brian Rasmussen, Government Affairs Manager, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, said, “On behalf of our 26,000 members, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is pleased to endorse Sen. Donnelly’s Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, S 2300. With the extensive number of recent multiple combat deployments, our military members face unprecedented challenges. These challenges can be particularly difficult for deployed National Guard and Reserve members, as well as for service members’ families. Sen. Donnelly’s legislation would require all service members to receive annual mental health screenings, and clinical follow ups when appropriate. His bill also would improve the identification and treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries, one of the ‘signature wounds’ of our recent conflicts. So we believe this legislation would reduce the number of military suicides and go a long way to improving care for our injured service members.”