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Two new bills aim to strengthen mental health help

Apr. 11, 2013 - 09:39AM   |  
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An Indiana lawmaker has introduced two bills aimed at improving mental health coverage for service members.

Rep. Andre Carson, a Democrat who had two military mental health bills signed into law in 2011, now proposes improved mental health assessments for service members returning from contingency operations and better notice of what mental health services are available.

The goal, he said, is to reduce suicides by improving access to mental health services and providing notice throughout a military career that mental health services are available and that there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

Both bills were introduced Wednesday.

The Military Suicide Reduction Act, HR 1463, would improve the mental health assessments already provided to troops when they return from deployments on contingency operations. Better screening might help identify people who need counseling, Carson said.

“We are quick to diagnose and treat service members who are injured in combat, with medics rushing to those who are struck by enemy IEDs or gunfire,” he said. “When it comes to the mental health challenges placed on our service members, we abandon them through months of deployment to deal with post traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts.”

The Military Mental Health Empowerment Act, HR 1464, tries to encourage more people to seek mental health counseling if they need it by providing notice, beginning in the first days of military training, about the availability of help and by attempting to eliminate the perceived stigma associated with seeking help by strengthening privacy policies.

“Seeking help shouldn’t be something our service members have to second guess,” Carson said. “They shouldn’t have to fear drawing unwanted attention to themselves or derailing their careers.”

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