Sen. Donnelly's Changes To Military Suicide Prevention Rules Included In Defense Bill

Jun 1, 2016

475 current and former American servicemembers took their own lives in 2015.
Credit Burdie Henri /

Congress is poised to pass suicide-prevention measures for troops and veterans for a third straight year, in part thanks to an Indiana senator.

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly says post-traumatic stress has always been a problem, but there's a better understanding of it now.

And he says the nature of the last 15 years of war has increased suicide risks, with many troops repeatedly redeployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

He says some of them become so accustomed to living under a state of war that they have trouble readjusting to civilian life at home.

Donnelly is the author of a proposal included in the annual defense spending bill to address a shortage of psychiatrists by training physicians' assistants to evaluate and treat suicide risks, and deploy them to combat zones so they're readily available to active-duty troops.

It'd also allow psychiatric nurses to provide care.

In the last two years, Congress has passed bills requiring an annual mental-health assessment for troops, and creating community mental-health centers so veterans don't face long drives to reach the nearest provider.

Donnelly says the U.S. has lost more troops to suicide than to combat in each of the last four years.

475 American troops and veterans killed themselves last year.