House Passes Joyce Bill to Prevent Military Suicides

Heads to Senate for consideration as part of H.R. 7666

WASHINGTON, DC – Tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) to prevent military suicides, H.R. 5352, the Military Suicide Prevention in the 21st Century Act. Joyce’s bill was included in H.R. 7666, the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act, which passed the House by a vote of 402 to 20.

“The men and women of America’s Armed Forces risk their lives fighting for our freedoms and our security. Unfortunately, many servicemembers are left with invisible scars that linger long after they return home and countless soldiers ultimately take their own lives,” said Joyce. “That’s why I introduced the Military Suicide Prevention in the 21st Century Act, which utilizes modern technology to improve support for America’s servicemembers struggling with their mental health. We can never truly repay the sacrifices made by our nation’s servicemembers, but by passing this legislation, Congress is another step closer to making a meaningful difference in the lives of countless American heroes and their families.”

According to a report issued by Department of Defense (DoD) earlier this year, military suicides are at their highest point since 1938. An estimated 7,000 service members have died in combat or training exercises since 9/11. During that same time, over 30,000 active-duty personnel and veterans who recently served died by suicide. The Military Suicide Prevention in the 21st Century Act addresses those tragic statistics by requiring the DoD to utilize technology proven to help servicemembers cope with stress and easily access mental health resources.

Specifically, the legislation would require the DoD to pre-download an application (app) called Virtual Hope Box and pre-program the National Suicide Hotline and Veterans Crisis Line onto servicemembers’ government-issued smart devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops. Importantly, the DoD would be required to use these resources during department-wide annual suicide prevention training. The Virtual Hope Box app can be set up with photos of friends and family, sound bites of loved ones, videos of special moments, music, relaxation exercises, games, and reminders of reasons for living. It also includes an easily accessible contact list that users can reach out to for support. This app was vetted by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers and is available for download by anyone with a smart device.

Before the vote, Joyce spoke on the floor and urged members on both sides of the aisle to support his measure. You can watch his full remarks here.

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