02/26/14 In a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday morning, Senator Donnelly questioned the Honorable Christine Wormuth, nominee for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, regarding her commitment and plans to help decrease the number of suicides among U.S. service members.
“I see this as an incredible challenge, an incredible problem, and an obligation we have to eliminate,” said Donnelly. “We are expecting a report from the DoD in line with a piece of legislation I have authored, and so your assistance in helping provide that to us, I would appreciate it a great deal. This is as you know a problem not only for those who are deployed but also at home as well. It seems when we lost more young men and women to suicide than in combat [in 2012], this would be right at the very top of the plate of everything we’re trying to do.”
Last year, Senator Donnelly introduced the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2013, which would establish a pilot program in each of the military services and reserve components to integrate comprehensive annual mental health assessments into service members’ Periodic Health Assessments and identify risk factors for mental illness so that service members can access preventative care. Also last year, Donnelly introduced a bipartisan amendment during consideration of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act which resulted in mandating a Department of Defense assessment of new tools that could be implemented to better screen service members for mental health needs and suicidal risk factors. The report required by Donnelly’s provision is expected to be completed next month.
Learn more about Senator Donnelly’s efforts to help prevent military suicide and the report expected from the Department of Defense here. Watch Senator Donnelly’s remarks at the hearing this morning here.