New legislation would require defense department to develop mental health programs for service members

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ Lawmakers passed legislation earlier this week aimed at developing programs for American servicemen and women that reduce the stigma of suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.

Rep. John Katko, R-New York, said the “National Defense Authorization Act” requires the Department of Defense to creating those programs.

“Everyday in this country there’s literally thousands of people attempting to take their lives,” Katko said. “You always have the normal stressors of life, and then you go into the military with additional stressors.”

“We’ve got to properly recognize that and embrace the fact that it happens, it’s okay and we can deal with it,” he continued.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-New York, said National Guard members are especially in need of mental health programs.

“According to the Department of Defense, the National Guard has the highest rate of suicide of any component of the armed forces. This is unacceptable,” Brindisi said.

Brindisi and Katko’s legislation also allows members of the National Guard and Reserve to access VA Vet Centers for mental health and counseling.

“Historically National Guard members have not been able to utilize veterans centers for their mental health care,” Brindisi said.

While President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the legislation, Brindisi doesn’t expect that to stop the bill.

“I’m very happy that House passed this legislation with a veto proof majority,” he said.

Brindisi and Katko both said changing the stigma over mental health will help save the lives of service members.

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