Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Our Soldiers and Veteransby Representative Glenn Thompson
Posted on 2015-12-08
THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, late last month President
Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of
2015, otherwise known as the NDAA.
Included in the legislation was language directing the United States Department of Defense to study a mental health assessment for all incoming military recruits. This assessment would then be used as a baseline throughout the service careers of our servicemen and -women.
This was included in the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers, or MEPS, Act, which I introduced earlier this year. Now, I believe this assessment is essential in addressing the suicide epidemic which has affected our military members and veterans over the past several years.
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to suicide within the ranks of our American heroes, commissioned studies have been implemented by the Department of Defense in the past.
We have found that, for over 60 percent of those individuals who attempt or commit suicide while serving in the military, it was not their first attempt. Their first attempt was before they joined the military. This is about pre-existing conditions that have failed to have been recognized.
Mr. Speaker, if you are like me and you assume that it is what people see on the battlefield--I have been to Afghanistan. I have been to Iraq in the past. It is the horrors of war that drive people, largely, to suicide.
But these studies, Mr. Speaker, have found that the large majority of those individuals who attempt or commit suicide while in the military never saw deployment. They were not in combat situations. Again, it speaks to pre-existing conditions that have not been adequately identified and addressed. This is a matter that really has been thoroughly examined in recent years.
So while I am happy that it is in the National Defense Authorization Act, I urge the Pentagon to act quickly to take steps to better assess the mental health of our servicemen and -women at the time of enlistment with this commonsense, baseline evaluation.
These heroes deserve all the information that we can provide in order to make their lives a bit easier.