By JB Moore, NAMI Military and Veterans Policy and Support Manager
Memorial Day is a time to pay tribute to America’s heroes whose lives have been lost in service to this country.
As we remember and pause to appreciate and celebrate the sacrifices of these heroes, it is important to be mindful that not all lives lost in defense of our country were lost on the battlefield. Sadly, many lives have been lost to suicide.
The statistics are staggering, 22 veterans and 1 service member take their lives each day – while the number of suicides among their family members go uncounted.
Many of these individuals have suffered wounds of war that are psychological in nature and not always easily seen. Such “invisible” wounds can be severe and life threatening. They can also be healed, given the proper care.
Symptoms of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, may not surface for months or even years; and are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or untreated.
In fact, some Veterans are dying while awaiting treatment, while the Veterans Administration continues to struggle to meet veterans’ mental health care needs, in areas including:
·Ensuring adequate coordination, monitoring, and staffing for oversight of contracted mental health patient care
·Implementing adequate facility and program policies to address patient care safety, monitoring patients and providing program oversight at inpatient mental health care facilities and
·Complying with VA requirements for effective, safe medication management program; sufficiently documenting patients’ care in a timely manner; and providing adequate professional support for professional staff at post traumatic stress disorder mental health residential rehabilitation program sites.
Today, you have an opportunity to act!
Support the “Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 (S. 2300).” This legislation, introduced by Senator Joe Donnelly (D - Ind.), requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct periodic mental health assessments for members of the Armed Forces, and to determine which members are in need of mental health care and treatment.
Contact your Member of Congress and ask him or her to co-sponsor and support the bill.
Acting now is an ideal way to honor the sacrifices that our brave men, women—and their families—have made.
Thank you for your advocacy and wishing you and your families a happy holiday weekend!