WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A growing number of lawmakers say they’re concerned about a recent uptick in military suicides. They’re introducing legislation to force the Pentagon to do more.
A recent report shows annual military suicides spiked 15% in 2020.
Lawmakers across the board are calling the trend alarming but say that based on a recent government watchdog report, there are clear guidelines that, if applied, could help drive military suicides down.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is signaling an SOS.
“We absolutely need to increase our resources,” Ernst said. “We are facing some significant challenges.”
It’s why Ernst and a group of more than two dozen bipartisan senators introduced legislation to force the Pentagon to do more to help.
“We just want them to know we care about them, we appreciate their service,” Ernst said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is calling the trend in military suicides troubling. While Pentagon officials say they can’t explain the cause of the increase, they are vowing to bring them down.
Bonnie Carroll is the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. She’s also worked with the Pentagon to highlight their struggles.
“There are things we can do,” Carroll said. “We work with loved ones to understand their loved ones’ journey… What those families identified were not the things that you normally think, it really wasn’t. It was more about sleep deprivation, chronic pain, nerve damage… toxic leadership.”
Carroll says while more resources will help, she believes the number one priority must be awareness.
“There can never be enough resources… What we’ve got to do is normalize help seeking behavior,” Carroll said. “There is help available, and it works.”
It’s unclear if or when the bill could be passed. In the meantime, suicide prevention advocates say help is on the way. Come July, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by simply dialing 988.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is available at all times by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.