INDIANAPOLIS – The statistics are absolutely staggering.
Some 22 veterans take their own lives every single day, according to some estimates.
“The cause of suicide prevention must take center stage,” said Col. Jim Sweeney.
And on Wednesday morning, it did, as Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, came to the Indiana War Memorial to join two local military families affected by suicide, including the family of Jacob Sexton, a native of Farmland who served in the National Guard.
In 2009, Sexton took his own life while back at home, on leave from Afghanistan.
“From that day on, I decided this was going to be a fight I had to fight,” said Sexton’s father, Jeff.
And it’s a fight they could soon be winning. If it’s passed, the Jacob Sexton Act would require annual mental health assessments for all service members–active, reserve, and Guard.
The bill, authored by Donnelly, was just passed by the Senate Armed Services committee last week, as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Bill.
The defense bill has passed Congress each of the last 52 years, so Donnelly and Sexton’s family both feel good about the bill’s chances of becoming law later this year.
— Dan Spehler (@DanSpehler) May 28, 2014
“It’s wonderful,” said Sexton’s mother, Barbara. “I love and miss my son so much.”
“We didn’t lose the one we love for nothing,” Jeff Sexton said. “When you have somebody commit suicide, there’s no answers for too many families. And I’m hoping this will prevent them and that way we don’t have to look for answers.”
“By ensuring that our nation’s military personnel are screened, and receive timely and adequate mental health care, we will reduce suicide among our armed services, veterans and our families,” said Lisa Brattain with the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.
“We want to give them the opportunity, the chance, to have someone to talk to,” said Donnelly.
“That’s my biggest hope, that there aren’t other families,” said Gregg Keesling, whose son Chance also committed suicide. “If there are, hopefully they will find strength in trying to help other people, because I think that’s all we have is to try to help those that come after for it not to happen to them.”