New bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives yesterday would seek to reduce the stigma of mental health care so more veterans would seek treatment for post-traumatic stress injury.
The legislation, introduced by Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Scott Peters (D-CA), Brian Mast (R-FL) and John Katko (R-NY), would also designate June as National Post Traumatic Stress Injury Awareness Month, and June 27th as National PTSI Awareness Day.
“Our brave men and women in uniform sacrifice so much to keep our country safe, and some of them come home with the unseen wounds of Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries,” said Brindisi. “Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health care starts with raising awareness of these injuries, but it continues with actions like making sure our Veterans and active duty service members have access to the mental health care services they need. I am willing to work with anyone to get that done.”
The congressmen said that while post-traumatic stress is most commonly linked to combat in veterans, it can also occur as the result of other traumatic stressors like acts of violence or abuse, and in cases of disaster and emergency. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the economic crisis brought about by responses to it, are expected to increase the number of veterans with post-traumatic stress or exacerbate their conditions.
Katko said as much as nearly a third of all veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD.
“According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), between 12-30% of all veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime,” said Katko. “By raising awareness of PTSD and reducing the stigma associated with seeking support for mental health disorders, our measure aims to encourage more service members and veterans to pursue treatment.”
Peters said the rising suicide rate in veterans is an indication that more needs to be done.
“Ask service members about their injuries, and they will likely show you the visible scars sustained from their service. What they are more reluctant to share are mental scars – the less visible but equally as harmful injuries,” Peters said. “When 20 of our nation’s heroes die from suicide each day, it’s evident we must break the stigma associated with accessing mental health treatment and embolden our veterans to seek help when they need it.”