News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urging him to enact recommendations from the Joint Suicide Prevention Task Force that would create a suicide prevention office within the Department of Defense to manage and advise suicide prevention services across all military branches. The letter comes after a report from the Joint Suicide Task Force found that a centralized approach to suicide prevention would be more effective than having a large number of programs spread out across the military. Specifically, the report found that a system of programs dispersed throughout the military can result in soldiers in need of care slipping through the cracks.

“As you know, the results of the Joint Suicide Prevention Task Force have been released and one of the most significant recommendations is to “create, restructure, and resource suicide prevention offices at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Services, installations, and unit level to achieve unity of effort.” The report found that having a large number of disparate programs spread throughout the military as a whole has created gaps in the system. I believe that these gaps in care are unacceptable,” wrote Senator Murray.

During a Senate hearing held early this year, Senator Murray questioned Veterans’ Affairs’ (VA) top mental health official about efforts to provide counseling services to help veterans with PTSD and other mental health challenges and called on the VA to do more to reverse rising veteran suicide rates. 

The full text of the letter appears below:

The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Gates:

As you know, I have repeatedly expressed my concerns over the increasing rate of servicemember suicides as our men and women in uniform continue to fight two wars and support operations worldwide. Last year, 309 servicemembers committed suicide, a dramatic increase since 2007. Recent news articles, have noted the nearly 900 suicide prevention programs over 400 military installations. I commend the efforts of the Suicide Prevention Task Force and hope you consider their recommendations and take immediate action

As you know, the results of the Joint Suicide Prevention Task Force have been released and one of the most significant recommendations is to “create, restructure, and resource suicide prevention offices at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Services, installations, and unit level to achieve unity of effort.” The report found that having a large number of disparate programs spread throughout the military as a whole has created gaps in the system. I believe that these gaps in care are unacceptable.

I wholeheartedly support the Task Force’s recommendations and feel we need to move swiftly on establishing these suicide prevention offices to assist servicemembers in need.  Also, these suicide prevention offices should focus both on the servicemembers and their families because the mental health of the entire family is crucial to the success of the program.

I applaud the efforts of the Suicide Prevention Task Force and hope that you consider this among the many other recommendations to take immediate action in suicide prevention.  One servicemember suicide is one too many when it could have been prevented through our collective efforts.  Please let me know if I can assist in the development and implementation of the suicide prevention offices.

I look forward to working with you on this issue.