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U.S. House of Representatives
Congressman Wilson Opening Statement for Military Personnel Subcommittee Hearing on Current Status of Suicide Prevention Programs in the Military
“Today the Subcommittee meets to hear testimony on the efforts by the Department of Defense and the military services to prevent suicide by service members, family members and civilian employees.
“I want to preface my statement by recognizing the tremendous work the Department of Defense and the service leadership has done to respond to the disturbing trend of suicide in our armed forces. I understand this has not been an easy task and I thank you for your hard work. I particularly see military service as opportunity to be all you can be and I want service members to know they are talented people who are important and appreciated by the American people. They can overcome challenges.
“I am also grateful for Ranking Member Susan Davis’s work she did as Chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee to bring attention to psychological stress in the military and the behavioral health needs of service members. With that said, clearly there is more work to be done.
“Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss. Every suicide is a tragedy but suicide by members of our military is even more difficult because they have given so much to this nation.
“Ultimately, it is an individual decision to take one’s own life. But we must make sure every opportunity to redirect or change that decision is available before it’s too late.
“Suicide is a multi-faceted phenomenon that is not unique to the military. Unfortunately, in addition to the unique hardships of military service, our service members are subject to the same pressures that plague the rest of society today. They are exposed to the same stressors, such as the current unemployment and economic situation that may lead to suicide by their civilian counterparts. I am very concerned these stressors will only get worse in the coming months as debate regarding cuts to the Defense Department budget intensifies.
“Each of the military services and the Department of Defense has adopted strategies to reduce suicide by our troops. I would like to hear from our witnesses whether those strategies are working. What are your benchmarks for success? How do you determine whether your programs incorporate the latest research and information on suicide prevention? I am also interested to know how Congress can further help and support your efforts.”