The first bill Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, authored in the Senate was the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Ac t of 2013. The bill is named for a Hoosier National Guard member who took his life while home on leave from Afghanistan.
The legislation didn’t go anywhere, but Donnelly says this year’s version is vastly improved.
He says changes include expanding mental health screenings to more than just those within the deployment cycle.
Donnelly says its important that members of the National Guard and Reserve also have opportunities to talk to someone and to “have their challenges dealt with.”
The legislation would also create a working group between the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to identify best practices and generate improvements in mental health services.
The senator recently returned from a trip to Israel, and he says the U.S. could consider programs like the ones the Israeli military uses.
“Much of the training goes to the first line supervisors,” Donnelly says. “Much of the training goes to people right in the field who can then provide information on any soldier they feel is suffering from challenges.”
Donnelly says the bill is also meant to reiterate that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness and that servicemembers’ privacy will be maintained.