Reps. Grace Napolitano and Tim Ryan Host Military/Veterans Suicide Prevention Briefing

Oct 29, 2013 Issues: Mental Health

Video of briefing available here:

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) and Tim Ryan (OH-13), co-hosted a mental health briefing in conjunction with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to educate members of Congress and their staff on roles they can take to help promote resilience and successful transitions for Military Service Members and Veterans, thereby reducing suicide.

“Mental illness knows no boundaries and affects everybody in every segment of our society.” Napolitano said. “We must work together to eliminate stigma for the health and well-being of our brave men and women in uniform. When our veterans return home, these invisible injuries can have a devastating effect on them and their families. We must treat these invisible wounds just as we treat physical wounds. I thank everyone who came today to continue this critical dialogue. Through education of our colleagues, staff, and families, we can save lives by letting those suffering know it is always okay to ask for help.”

“As legislators and leaders, we have the responsibility to work hard to find innovative approaches to address our Veterans’ mental health and combat Veteran suicide,” said Rep. Ryan, Co-Chair of the Congressional Military Mental Health Caucus. “Today's panel took a positive step in that direction, but we must remain vigilant in seeing that these men and women who served in our armed forces receive the first class help they deserve.”

Speakers at the briefing included Dr. Janet Kemp, RN, PhD, National Mental Health Program Director for Suicide Prevention and Community Engagement at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; David Litts, OD, Executive Secretary for the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention; Colonel (Ret.) Don Osterberg, Senior Vice President of Safety and Security at Schneider National, Inc.; John Madigan, Senior Director of Public Policy at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; First Sergeant John Williams, Instructor at the Schneider Training Academy at Schneider National, Inc.; and Sandra Mason, Acting Director for Recovery Care Coordination at the Department of Defense. They presented techniques and resources to prevent suicide among active duty military personnel and veterans and showed how individuals can help reduce stigma through self-advocacy and education.

“Our American service members and veterans are skilled, talented and resilient,” said David Litts of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “Thankfully, for the vast majority, suicide is not a serious risk. Still, every suicide by a service member or a veteran is a tragedy and we need to spread the word that for those who do suffer from PTSD, depression, and other mental health conditions: There is help. There is hope. There is a future.”

“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was pleased to partner with the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention on today’s briefing,” said John Madigan of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We thank Congresswoman Napolitano and Congressman Ryan for their leadership and bringing us together. We look forward to continuing to work with partners inside and outside of government to prevent suicide among military personnel, veterans and their families.”

While more active duty military and veterans are seeking help, suicide continues to threaten the lives of many service members and veterans. The annual suicide rate among veterans is about 30 for every 100,000 of the population, compared with the civilian rate of 14 per 100,000.

Napolitano has long worked to address mental health issues affecting our military and veterans. She helped lead a successful effort two years ago to get letters of condolence sent to the families of soldiers lost to suicide, an honor they were previously denied. She has also helped establish suicide prevention programs in 16 Los Angeles County schools over the past decade, and is the author of the H.R. 628, the Mental Health in School Act.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Press 1 to connect with the Veterans Hotline.