Mental Health

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Senator Murray understands the growing need to treat the mental health conditions of our veterans and returning servicemembers.  According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), more than one-third of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have sought care at the VA have done so for mental health care issues.  It is not only veterans from the current wars who need treatment for mental health conditions.  Senator Murray has fought to provide all veterans with the mental health services that they deserve.

The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted this issue.  The hallmark injuries from these wars, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), have posed a significant problem with returning servicemembers and those who are tasked with treating them. 

NOTE: If you are a veteran experiencing mental health problems or suicidal thoughts, please visit the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Suicide Prevention Awareness website at or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

Senator Murray used her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to fight for $900 million towards research for the invisible wounds of war like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in the fiscal year (FY) 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill.  This bill also included $100 million for mental health services.  

Senator Murray coauthored and fought to pass the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act as part of the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, and she made sure that the key provisions of the bill were funded in the FY 2008 Defense Appropriations bill.  The Wounded Warriors Act increased coordination between the military and the VA for treating returning troops and veterans with mental health issues.  These steps will help servicemembers and veterans access mental health care to improve their quality of life. 

Senator Murray was very troubled by news reports that revealed the shocking numbers of veterans committing suicide. The veteran population suffers from suicide at twice the rate as the American civilian population. Veterans between the ages of 20 and 24, who are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have a suicide rate two to four times higher than their civilian counterparts.

To address this, Senator Murray worked tirelessly with her colleagues in Congress to pass the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act into law.  The bill improves the VA’s suicide prevention procedures by requiring mental health training for VA staff and screening for suicide risk factors for veterans who receive VA care. The law also designates a suicide prevention counselor at each VA medical facility.