A Hoosier Face on the American Military Suicide Problem
RANDOLPH COUNTY, Ind.--Nine years ago Jacob Sexton was deployed to Afghanistan. When the Indiana guardsman came home to Randolph County for a 15-day leave, he committed suicide. His story is part of the reason more suicides may be prevented.
"He said we're gonna go to Goodwill and get coats for the kids in Afghanistan," said his mom, Barb Sexton, recalling their last conversation. In 2013, she spoke at a news conference when the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, or the Sexton Act, was passed.
In observance of National #SuicidePreventionMonth, Joe gave a speech on the Senate floor today – to recognize those we’ve lost and to discuss legislative efforts to prevent suicide. Watch his full speech here: https://t.co/B81dUFnJ6S pic.twitter.com/lI1DzTNCKq
— Archive: Senator Joe Donnelly (@SenDonnelly) September 18, 2018
That Act requires all people in the military to get an annual mental health checkup, to make sure they are not fighting a battle that they can't win alone, said Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).
He said on the Senate floor Tuesday, that all branches of the military now provide those checkups. He said privacy is a part of that.
"It's critically important these brave men and women who came forward can get the support they need without suffering professionally for just seeking help," he said.
Barb Sexton said her son had been considering getting counseling for PTSD-related issues, but didn't do it.
"He didn't really want to seek that kind of treatment because he might've been looked down on," she said, acknowledging that people in the military sometimes fear they will lose face, and even risk promotions or security clearances if they seek help.
Donnelly said it's not just a problem for people in the military, but that 1,000 Hoosiers die of suicide each year.
"We must be working year-round, and across the aisle, there’s no Democrats or Republicans in this, to find the solutions that provide Americans with the help they need to get through their most trying times. Over the past several years, Congress has found a number of bipartisan solutions to help address this tragic problem."
In early 2017, Donnelly and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced the bipartisan Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act, to help law enforcement agencies establish or enhance mental health services for their officers. It also made grants available to initiate peer mentoring pilot programs and supported the study of crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks for officers. It was signed into law in January 2018.
In May 2017, Donnelly and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the bipartisan National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, to improve the effectiveness of the current suicide hotline, including to see if a 3-digit number would better connect those in need of assistance.
The legislation was signed into law last month by President Trump.