Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Actby Senator Richard J. Durbin
Posted on 2015-02-03
DURBIN. Mr. President, I am a proud cosponsor of the Clay Hunt
Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act and am pleased my
colleagues chose to support it unanimously. The bill is designed to
help reduce--and hopefully eliminate--veteran suicides by improving
access to and quality of mental health care for veterans.
An estimated 22 veterans a day take their own lives. That is twice as high as the general population. Veterans of all ages and from all wars are affected by conditions that can contribute to depression and thoughts of suicide. We are learning more and more, for example, about how common post-traumatic stress disorder is among our returning heroes. PTSD can surface years--even decades--after a veteran was in combat. It is one of many factors that contribute to this disheartening problem.
The number of suicides is disproportionately high, however, for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Young men and women just out of the service and receiving health care from the government committed suicide at nearly three times the rate of active-duty troops in 2012. We have to work harder to make sure our heroes have access to the help they need.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act will create a peer support and community outreach pilot program to connect transitioning service members with programs that could help them. The bill will create a pilot program to repay the loan debt of psychiatry students so it is easier to recruit them to work at the VA. It also will improve the accountability of VA mental health and suicide- prevention programs by requiring an annual evaluation.
Today, in a bipartisan fashion, the Senate said we need to do more to make sure our heroes have access to the assistance they need. I hope the step we took here today helps many veterans regain a path to wellness and happiness.