On August 31, 2012, President Obama signed an executive order that improves access for veterans and troops to mental health services. The new order is an effort to reduce the number of suicides and make sure that service members received proper treatment for mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In an address to service members at the 1st Aviation Support Battalion hangar at Fort Bliss, Obama stated, “We may be turning a page on a decade of war, but America’s responsibility to you has only just begun.” According to a White House press release, the order will build partnerships with community providers, increase staffing at the VA and devote funds to mental health research.
The VA must expand crisis line capabilities by the end of the year under the recent directive. This means that veterans who are struggling will be able to connect with a mental health professional 24 hours a day. The Department of Defense is also developing a suicide prevention campaign aimed at veterans.
Some question whether the recent order is “too little too late,” according to the Army Times, because suicide rates began to increase in 2004. The VA estimates that approximately 18 veterans commit suicide each day. Active duty service members in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy are not immune. Each branch of the military has reported higher numbers of suicides.
The problem has worsened as mental health issues continues to be stigmatized. Veterans who are struggling need to have access to timely resources and tools. Veterans and advocacy groups support the new measure, which targets a national crisis.
Source: ArmyTimes.com, “Obama orders better mental health care for vets,” Patricia Kime, Aug. 31, 2012.
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