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Shaheen amendment modeled after successful NH suicide prevention pilot program

(Washington, D.C.)U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 that will ensure suicide prevention training and counseling is included in the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program-a nationwide program for National Guardsmen, Reservists and their families.  The amendment is based on a successful New Hampshire pilot program that identified the need for expanding suicide prevention services offered through the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. The pilot program provides training to members of the National Guard and Reservists and their families so that they can better identify at-risk peers, and receive counseling to cope with a suicide in their community.

"Suicide has become an increasingly severe problem across the armed forces, and it is imperative that we do everything we can to help our brave servicemen and women and their families readjust to normal life when they return home from battle," said Shaheen.  "This amendment will provide the necessary tools to military communities to help identify those at-risk and make available the resources needed for assistance, particularly among those who have served multiple deployments overseas."

Suicide is becoming increasingly pervasive among members of the armed forces, with the number of battlefield suicides in early 2009 exceeding the number of combat deaths for the first time in history.  As National Guardsmen are increasingly relied upon for service overseas, suicide has become an increasingly severe problem. Nationwide, there have been 29 confirmed suicides among Army National Guardsmen who were not on active duty and seven confirmed cases for Reservists in the first half of this year.

The New Hampshire National Guard has experienced multiple deployments over the past several years and is preparing for the largest deployment in the Guard's history with more than 1,100 soldiers from the 197th Fires Brigades expected to deploy to the Middle East in the coming year.

The amendment requires that the DOD's Office for Reintegration Programs establish a program to provide National Guard members and Reservists, their families, and their communities with training in suicide prevention and counseling in response to suicide.  It also requires the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury to work with State National Guard and Reserve organizations on developing suicide prevention and community response programs.