WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (both R-Idaho) joined Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) in urging the Pentagon to take immediate action to step up suicide prevention efforts with the introduction of the Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) Act, which directs the Pentagon to evaluate the effectiveness of their suicide prevention efforts and to improve its data collection, reduce bureaucratic duplication, and strengthen collaboration between its offices. The legislation was introduced following an alarming report revealing a 15 percent increase in military suicides in 2020 from the previous year.
“We cannot sit idly by while our military members take their own lives. It is our duty to ensure that the brave men and women who protect our nation are provided the mental health resources and support they need throughout their service,” said Risch. “The S.O.S. Act calls on DOD to address and improve their suicide prevention efforts in order to save the lives of our nation’s heroes. We must protect our servicemembers just as they protect us.”
“American servicemembers sacrifice so much to defend our freedoms and keep our country safe. Over the past year, there has been an alarming increase in suicide among our troops,” said Crapo. “This legislation will improve suicide prevention efforts and ensure our men and women in uniform have access to the mental health care and support they have rightfully earned."
This past spring, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan watchdog agency, released the findings of a review of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) suicide prevention programs. The report identified three areas that the DOD should address to improve suicide prevention efforts. The S.O.S. Act directs the DOD to implement those GAO recommendations, which include:
- Assessing the DOD’s individual non-clinical prevention efforts to determine their effectiveness.
- Improving the DOD’s data collection by reducing duplication and developing consistent suicide-related definitions to be used department-wide. This is in response to concerns that inconsistent definitions could be impeding the ability to access and improve prevention programs.
- Strengthening collaboration between Pentagon offices, specifically between the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) and the Psychological Health Center of Excellence on the production of the annual suicide reports, to minimize duplication of efforts.
The S.O.S. Act has the support of over 30 Senators—Republicans and Democrats—and is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.
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