Joyce unveils bipartisan, bicameral military suicide prevention measure

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) seeks to turnaround the rising suicide rate among active duty U.S. military service members, a rate the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) says continued to increase during 2020.

“Last year, 580 service members died by suicide across the military’s active, reserve and National Guard components,” Rep. Joyce said on Tuesday. “That’s 580 too many. More must be done to support our troops and ensure they have access to the assistance and mental health care they need.” 

The Military Suicide Prevention in the 21st Century Act, H.R. 5352, which Rep. Joyce sponsored on Sept. 23 with original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), would authorize DOD to establish a pilot program to pre-program suicide prevention resources into smart devices issued to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) on the same day introduced the identical bill, S. 2811, in their chamber.

If enacted, the measure would require the DOD to pre-download an application called Virtual Hope Box and the National Suicide Hotline onto service members’ government-issued smart devices and use them during department-wide annual suicide prevention training. The bill also would require DOD to identify prevention measures for military suicide, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Joyce’s staff.

The congressman said he “will continue to work across the aisle to ensure the U.S. military is utilizing every tool available to prevent suicide among our service members and eliminate the stigma surrounding seeking help within our military community.”

“We owe this and so much more to the brave men and women who defend our nation and our freedoms,” he added.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation endorsed the bill, which has been referred for consideration to both armed services committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate.