This week, ROA members took to the stump in Indiana to support momentum on the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014. Colonel Jim Sweeney, USMC, ROA's National Naval Services Vice President appeared with the bill's author, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) one week after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to include the legislation as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The Sexton Act of 2014 would ensure that mental health is evaluated regularly and as a central element of a service member’s overall readiness by requiring annual mental health assessments for all service members, including members of the Active, Guard and Reserve components. Right now, the military provides the most effective mental health screening only for those who are preparing for or returning from deployment, despite research that shows the majority of military suicides occur among service members who have never deployed.
ROA has endorsed the Sexton Act as a "solid first step towards providing the tailored research and targeted support our Reservists need and ultimately the parity in service they deserve.”
In his remarks, Col. Sweeney detailed the dispariity in mental healthcare which has led to a staggering suicide rate among members of the Reserve Components.
The Reserve Officer’s Association—representing the entire Guard and Reserve component—thanks Senator Donnelly for his leadership and fully supports the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act.
Today’s citizen warriors sign up for service in the Reserve and Guard with the clear understanding that their duty will carry unique burdens. Dispersed across local communities from coast to coast, rather than concentrated on or near military bases, these citizen warriors understand that they will enter a culture of service and a system of support that is ill-suited for the challenges presented by the duality of their lives in and out of uniform. They bear these burdens with open eyes and unwavering dedication.
To fill gaps in support of our Reserve Components, the cause of suicide prevention must take center stage. The staggering and disproportionate rate of suicide among members of America’s Reserve and Guard is, in part, the result of a “one size fits all” approach to prevention. The challenges of repeatedly deploying from, and returning to, civilian lives are largely misunderstood by a public weary of war and a Congress strapped for cash. In truth, Reservists operate outside the comforting routine and cocoon of support found on Active duty installations.
Once out of uniform, Reservists carry their burdens, not only in silence but too commonly, without a clear understanding of where to turn. The Sexton Act is a solid first step towards providing the tailored research and targeted support our Guard and Reserve members need, and, providing, ultimately, the parity in service they deserve.