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Congressional Military/Veterans Mental Health Briefing

May 16, 2013
Press Release

Video of briefing available here:

(Washington, D.C.) Yesterday, as part of May Mental Health Awareness Month, the Congressional Military Mental Health Caucus, held a legislative briefing to educate members of Congress and their staff on how the U.S. military and the Department of Veterans Affairs are addressing mental health in the military. Caucus Co-Chairs, Reps. Jeff Miller (FL-1) and Tim Ryan (OH-13) co-hosted the briefing along with Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5).

“We must all continue to work together to eliminate stigma, so that members of our military seek the mental health treatment they need and deserve,” Napolitano said. “The invisible wounds of war too often go unnoticed until it is too late, and we must do everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our servicemen and women and their families. I thank my colleagues and our panelists for helping to raise awareness for this serious issue.”

“So many Americans serving in our Armed Forces return from the battlefield dealing with a variety of mental health conditions, including Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress,” said Rep. Thompson. “These brave men and women deserve our support, which means making every effort to find new and innovative ways to help them achieve physical health, resiliency, and mental wellbeing.”

Speakers at the briefing included Dr. Sonja V. Batten, Ph.D., Deputy Chief Consultant for Specialty Mental Health in the Veterans Affairs Central Office; U.S. Marine Corps Major General (ret.) Thomas S. Jones; and Frank C. DiGiovanni, Director of Training Readiness and Strategy in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. They presented approaches to preventing stress-related mental health disorders and promoted the treatment of these and other disorders experienced by combat veterans.

Of the crises facing American troops today, suicide ranks among the most emotionally wrenching — and baffling.  The U.S. Army set another record last year with 324 suicides, 183 of whom were on active duty.

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 15 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.

For the Congressional May Mental Health Awareness Month calendar, visit