President Barack Obama issued an executive order Friday to improve suicide prevention services. He took action in an effort to stem the high suicide rate among our nation’s service members and Veterans.
Paul Sullivan, managing director of Veterans Outreach at Bergmann & Moore told the Army Times, first, “as commander in chief, he is sending a very strong, anti-stigma, pro-treatment message, essentially saying it’s the best thing to do, go in and get treatment,” Sullivan said. “Second, he’s saying that DoD and VA are going to be ready when they show up, if a Veteran is having mental health symptoms and they reach out for treatment.”
In an NPR interview, Sullivan described the President’s decision as “a huge leap.”
The new order requires VA to ensure Veterans in crisis who seek help from VA see a mental health professional within 24 hours, and it requires VA to hire additional mental health employees so VA meets increasing demand for treatment.
President Obama’s order requires the Department of Defense to create and institute a suicide prevention program aimed at assisting service members with finding mental health treatment. The U.S. Army announced 38 soldiers took their lives in July. This is the highest suicide rate since the Army began keeping track. The Army announced a Stand Down to address the crisis on September 27.
The number of Veteran suicides is also worryingly high. A Veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. Even Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer admits to struggling with suicidal thoughts. In his memoir, Meyer reveals he attempted suicide in 2010.
In the wake of the 2007 Veterans for Common Sense lawsuit against VA, the department made commendable changes in an effort to reduce suicides among Veterans. As of July 2012, the Veterans Crisis Line received 723,115 contacts via phone, chat, and text. The Crisis Line’s dedicated staff assisted with 23,483 rescues, where the veteran was brought in by first responders for medical care.
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicide, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. Or visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/.
Bergmann & Moore, LLC, is based in the Washington, DC metro area, concentrates only on VA disability benefits law. We have helped thousands of Veterans and their families obtain the VA benefits they are entitled to receive. Bergmann & Moore offers a free legal consultation concerning VA disability claims. We gladly welcome all types of claims, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), individual unemployability (IU), and appeals.