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Bill Would Require Mental Health Assessments For Military

Legislation authored by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, that is aimed at preventing military suicides is being included in Congress' annual defense bill.

Donnelly and the Sextons

Photo: Brandon Smith

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, listens while Jeff Sexton speaks on the steps of the Indiana War Memorial in Indianapolis. Jeff is the father of Jacob Sexton, for whom Donnelly's bill is named. Jacob committed suicide while on leave from Afghanistan in 2009. Seated at right is Jacob's mother Barb.

Donnelly’s 2014 Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act was added, in full, to this year’s Defense Authorization bill, which has been approved every year for the last 52 consecutive years.

The bill would require annual mental health assessments for all military service members – not just active duty, but National Guard and reservists as well.

Donnelly says it would also ensure those assessments remain confidential.

“There have been thoughts in the past: ‘If I go to seek help, will it affect my ability to get a promotion?’  And we don’t ever want any of our men and women to worry that the positive step of trying to seek help and seek answers would ever affect your career,” Donnelly says.

Jeff Sexton’s son Jacob, for whom Donnelly’s bill is named, killed himself at his Indiana home while on leave from Afghanistan in 2009. Sexton says he’s proud of the progress that’s been made but says the fight isn’t over.

“Any military family knows all it takes is the stroke of a pen and your family member could be thousands of miles away from you,” Sexton says. “So we need to make the stroke of a pen to make sure everything gets taken care of.”

Donnelly’s bill also requires the Department of Defense to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure National Guard and reservists with private insurance get the proper treatment.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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  • Bob Eckert

    We should be doing mental health assessments for anyone seeking public office!

  • Bob Eckert

    I thought Donnelly was going to tackle problems that affect everyone in the state when I voted for him. One of these problems is Republicans.

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