Washington, D.C. — Senator Joe Donnelly released the following statement in response to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) release of a new report on suicides in the military in 2013. DoD is using an updated method of tracking suicides and, with this new method, determined that 259 active component servicemembers, 87 reserve servicemembers, and 133 National Guard members committed suicide in 2013. While the total number of servicemembers who took their lives declined to 479 in 2013 from 522 in 2012, there was an increase in the number of National Guard and Reserve Members who committed suicide last year. The 133 National Guard Members who took their own lives is a record high up from 130 in 2012. Last year, 87 Reserve Members committed suicide compared to 73 in 2012.
Donnelly, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “This new report from the DoD is yet another harrowing reminder that we must address the scourge of military suicide immediately. There is no one solution to preventing suicide, but there are commonsense steps we can take now to help our servicemembers such as my effort to require yearly mental health assessments, and I am working nonstop with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act is signed into law as soon as possible.”
Donnelly’s Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 was included as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee in May and will be considered by the full Senate later this year. In addition to ensuring that mental health is evaluated regularly and is a central element of a servicemember’s overall readiness, the Sexton Act aims to improve mental health services for the National Guard and Reserve, where servicemembers often rely on civilian health insurance and providers. Right now, the best and most consistent screening is happening only for those within the deployment cycle and leaves members of the National Guard and Reserve underserved.
Learn more about Senator Donnelly’s efforts to prevent military suicide here.