October 16, 2019

Crapo, Colleagues Express Concern Regarding Suicide Rates among National Guardsmen

Request Defense Department assessment of gaps in prevention programs

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) expressing concerns with the high rates of suicide in the National Guard.  Citing information from the DOD Annual Suicide Report for Calendar Year 2018, the letter acknowledges the suicide rate for members of the Guard was 30.6 suicides per 100,000 population, compared to 24.8 suicides per 100,000 population in the Active component, and 22.9 suicides per 100,000 population in the Reserves. 

The letter reads, “We cannot continue to treat the National Guard as just another branch of the Active Army and Air Force while not paying special attention to their unique needs. We must ensure the National Guard has the care and community comparable to the Active components. The National Guard maintains comparable operational tempos but lacks the support of a community that fully empathizes with their unique and sometimes isolating experience of being both soldier and civilian.” 

The Senators emphasized the unique position of National Guard servicemembers as both soldiers and civilians that necessitates tailored solutions for accessing mental health care and community-based support.  The letter requests a brief no later than December 2019 highlighting any gaps that remain across DOD, branch-level or interagency suicide prevention programs for the National Guard.  The Senators also requested further analysis of any explanatory factors contributing to differences in suicide rates between the Active and Reserve Component and the National Guard. 

Additional Senators that signed the letter include Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Patty Murray (D-Washington). 

Senator Crapo joined Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nevada) in introducing the Show Esteem and Respect for Veterans by Increasing Care and Equity (SERVICE) Act earlier this year to address the epidemic of veteran suicide by expanding access to mental health services for veterans.  During an August roundtable discussion at the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Senator Crapo re-committed to furthering efforts to ensure National Guardsmen and women receive adequate mental health treatment for their service. 

A copy of the letter can be found here

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