Senate bill addresses veteran suicide rates

Senate bill addresses veteran suicide rates

A bipartisan bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to combat veteran suicide by designating one week per year for checking on peers.

The bill would establish Buddy Check Week to educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks of other veterans and recognize the signs of suicide risk. There also would be outreach events held during the week.

The bill would also direct the Veterans Affairs secretary to develop and implement educational opportunities for veterans to learn how to conduct wellness checks. The plan would be developed in consultation with members of the Armed Forces, mental health experts, veterans, and nonprofit organizations serving veterans.

The legislation is modeled after the American Legion’s Buddy Check National Week of Calling.

U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced the bill.

Ernst is a combat veteran and Jones is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Servicemen and women give so much to our country, and we have a solemn obligation to do everything we can to support them,” Jones said. “It’s so important that we destigmatize mental health issues, especially for veterans. This bill would help connect veterans with the resources available to them and ensure that they get the support they need.”