Obama, Hagel, and Harkin Address GI Suicides

The following is excerpted from a diary on the Think On These Things blog:

As news reports reveal growing numbers of suicide among soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. Senators Tom Harkin, Chuck Hagel, and Barack Obama on January 31, introduced major legislation aimed at preventing suicide among active duty members of the military. The Senators' bill, the Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act, would direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to create a comprehensive suicide prevention program including annual training for soldiers, improved instruction for field medics and post deployment assistance. The legislation authorizes six million dollars for implementation of the programs. A companion measure will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA).

Today's Washington Post reported that Army statistics show that 121 soldiers committee suicide last year - a 20 percent increase from 2006. This is the highest rate of Army suicides recorded since the Army started collecting this data in 1980. The Post also reported that last year about 2,100 soldiers "injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002."

"These startling statistics should serve as a wakeup call that suicide among soldiers and veterans is more than a problem, it is an epidemic," said Senator Harkin. "Thankfully, our push to provide America's veterans with a suicide prevention program was heard last year, when the President signed the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act into law. But there is more work ahead - especially in serving our active duty military personnel. We can and must act quickly to save our soldiers who are so bravely fighting for our country."

"Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been a significant increase in suicides among active-duty soldiers. This is a reality our country must face as we are engaged in two conflicts. This legislation will enhance and strengthen the Defense Department's suicide prevention programs for all active-duty military personnel. It is critical for our service members to be provided with the necessary mental health services they deserve. There can be no higher priority for America than our soldiers and their families," said Senator Hagel.

"Our nation's heroes deserve our greatest support and commitment, and we must immediately address the tragic increase in suicide rates among our active-duty service members," said Senator Obama. "The men and women who serve our country should expect nothing less than world class medical care, treatment, rehabilitation, and counseling services. Suicide can be prevented, and we must do everything we can to help those who are suffering. This bill will help ensure there are comprehensive suicide prevention programs throughout the military, and I commend Senator Harkin's leadership on this needed legislation."

For more details on the bill, please go to: http://thinkonthesethings.wordpress.com/ 2008/02/07/obama-hagel-and-durbin-tackle -suicides-among-active-duty-soldiers/

Tags: obama, veterans affairs (all tags)


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