Bill aims to reduce veteran suicide, improve mental health

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service-NC

RALEIGH — The U.S. Senate could vote Tuesday on legislation to improve mental health services for veterans in North Carolina and throughout the nation. A Monday vote was postponed due to bad weather in parts of the country.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Actwould provide funding to evaluate the mental health and suicide prevention programs of the Veterans Administration (VA) and Defense Department, and improve training and enhance collaboration. Jayce Elliston, a Gulf War veteran who lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), says almost two dozen vets take their own lives every day.

 Photo courtesy Veterans for Common Sense Legislation coming up for a vote this week in the U.S. Senate would prompt a third-party evaluation of the mental health and suicide prevention programs. An average of 22 military veterans take their own lives every day.

Photo courtesy Veterans for Common Sense
Legislation coming up for a vote this week in the U.S. Senate would prompt a third-party evaluation of the mental health and suicide prevention programs. An average of 22 military veterans take their own lives every day.

“It’s a massive problem,” says Elliston. “Twenty-two a day is unconscionable. It’s got to be changed, and anything we can do to make it better with a review of the systems we have in place is probably a great idea.”

Elliston points out the numbers total about 8,000 veteran suicides per year. The legislation is named for a Marine veteran who struggled with PTSD and committed suicide in 2011 at age 28.

According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, more than 500 veterans died from suicide between 2009 and 2011, the most recent data available.

The Public Health Division says depression and other mental health concerns surround a majority of veteran suicides. Elliston says an entire generation of veterans is dealing with the lifelong impact of taking the lives of others in war, which has a profound effect on their own mental health.

“Imagine a person that takes another person’s life. You deal with emotional issues for the rest of your life – trying to quantify and trying to put meaning to what you did,” says Elliston. “Some people have a real difficult time coming to terms with that.”

The Clay Hunt bill passed unanimously in the House and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee earlier this month.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News

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  • Richard

    I hope this act builds on efforts to improve mental health access for Veterans Affairs (VA) by seeking annual third party evaluations of VA’s mental healthcare and suicide prevention programmes, as well as creating a centralised website with resources and information about the range of mental health services available.

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