Finally, there is an acknowledgment with the elected ranks of the Congress and Senate of the need for more mental and behavioral programs and resources. Throughout 2012 a service member has been lost every day to suicide and every 80 minutes a veteran commits suicide (DOD-VA Mental Health Bill, 2012). These numbers are outpacing combat deaths and, simply put, are completely unacceptable.
Too often the mental wounds of service members either seen as invisible and therefore not taken seriously enough; or, are swept under the rug to avoid stigma of accessing resources. In some instances, the situation is dire enough that there are no resources to access. The Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012 was introduced in June to the Senate by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs. The Act was moved into the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs and has remained there despite hearings being completed. This introduction was a great political move as it was timed to correspond with National PTSD Awareness Day. However, this Act is important enough that we need to be paying close attention to it and showing our support for it. This proposed legislation is intended to “help our service members and veterans receive proper diagnoses and increased access to the best mental health care and support.”
The Act requires DoD to enhance oversight for suicide prevention and resilience programs as well as expand services for families. The act also allows for improved training and education for providers, more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities, and most importantly some critical improvements to mental health services. It is nearly impossible to effectively treat the size and scope of mental and behavioral issues with a tired and bulging system that has not been maintained or even updated for many years.
This legislation has the potential to save lives and improve quality of life across all the services, the reserves, and the family members who provide tireless support through the light and the dark times of dealing with mental illness and the invisible wounds of service. Please, take note of this piece of legislation and do not allow it to simply get lost in the Washington paper shuffle. Take a few minutes and write a note to your senators and representatives and encourage them to keep this legislation moving forward.