U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly released the following statement in response to the Department of Defense (DoD) report on military suicides in the third quarter of 2015, released Tuesday, that found 142 servicemembers were lost to suicide in the third quarter of 2015 and a total of 363 servicemembers through the first nine months of 2015. The Pentagon report provides military suicide data for July through September, and includes information on the deaths of 72 Active servicemembers, 38 Reservists, and 32 National Guard members. The number of suicides in the third quarter of 2015 increased in the Active and Reserve Components compared to the same period in 2014. Active, Reserve, and National Guard suicides were higher than the same period in 2013.
Donnelly, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “This report from the Pentagon is a stark reminder of the devastating losses to families and communities across our nation. As we start a new year, there is still a great deal of work to be done to combat military suicide and bring these numbers down to zero. We have to do a better job of providing quality mental health care to servicemembers and veterans in a way that puts their needs first. I will continue working toward that goal in the coming year as DoD begins implementing the Sexton Act and we fight to expand ‘Care Package’ programs to benefit veterans.”
Provisions from Donnelly’s “Servicemember and Veterans Mental Health Care Package” were signed into law in November 2015 as part of the national defense bill. In March 2015, Donnelly introduced the “Care Package”, three bipartisan bills to help expand access to quality mental health care for servicemembers and veterans through DoD and VA facilities, as well as local community providers. Once implemented, the military mental health provisions from the “Care Package” recently signed into law will help ensure that there are a sufficient number of the best trained mental health providers for servicemembers and veterans.
The “Care Package” builds on the progress made by Donnelly’s Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, which was signed into law late in 2014 and for the first time requires an annual mental health assessment for all servicemembers—Active, Guard, and Reserve.
In 2014, according to the Pentagon, 443 servicemembers took their own lives, including 273 Active servicemembers, 79 Reservists, and 91 National Guard members. In 2014, for the third straight year, more servicemembers were lost to suicide than in combat.