Recently, it was reported that for the second consecutive year, the United States has lost more troops to suicide than combat. This news comes on the heels of a guide for military families issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs that focuses on mental health. While these two points do not go perfectly hand in hand (the distinction between active troops and veterans, for example), it is clear that the mental health of those who serve is a major issue facing our country. In 2008, NASW joined Give an Hour’s efforts to provide free mental health services to returning troops and their families.
Social workers provide help to veterans and military families. Our crucial ally on this issue is Rep. Rush Holt (D, NJ-12). In the 111th Congress, Rep. Holt introduced a bill that focused on preventing military suicide, and now in the 112th Congress he is focused on the fact that suicide rates among Guard and Reserve members have doubled in just one year. Rep. Holt is aware that the VA is the largest single employer of social workers in the United States.
We will continue to work with Rep. Holt and other Members of Congress to educate them on the invaluable role social workers play in diminishing the suicide rates among active troops and veterans.