WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran, and Jon Tester (D-MT), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced bipartisan legislation to extend for one year a critical program that provides members of the National Guard and Reserves, as well as their families, with training in suicide prevention, resilience, community healing and response to suicide. The current program is set to expire October 1, 2018.

“One life lost to suicide is too many; we must do whatever we can to help those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms and are suffering from invisible wounds,” said Senator Ernst. “The suicide prevention, outreach, and community response training program for our National Guard and Reserve members and their families plays a critical role in providing folks with the tools they need. In order to combat suicide among servicemembers and our veterans, we must keep education and prevention training a priority.”

“National Guard and Reserve members serve an invaluable role in protecting Montana and our country,” said Senator Tester. “This bill does right by them to make sure we are treating the unseen wounds of war. By giving service members, veterans and their families the tools to recognize the risk of suicide, we can extend a lifeline to those in crisis when they need it most.”

“National Guardsmen and Reservists have some unique challenges when it comes to accessing behavioral help,” said retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the President of the National Guard Association of the United States. “They don’t live in a base environment surrounded by support networks and readily available treatment like their active-component counterparts. This legislation helps bridge these gaps and we greatly appreciate the efforts of Senator Tester and Senator Ernst in extending this important program. The continuing high rate of suicide in the National Guard and Reserve must cannot be accepted as some sort of new normal. Clearly, this not acceptable."

About the Extension of the Suicide Prevention and Resilience Program: 

  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to provide members of the National Guard and Reserves with training in suicide prevention. Such training includes:
    • Describing the warning signs for suicide and teaching effective strategies for prevention and intervention;
    • Examining the influence of military culture on risk and protective factors for suicide; and
    • Engaging in interactive case scenarios and role plays to practice effective intervention strategies.
  • Directs the Secretary to provide the families and communities of members of the National Guard and Reserves with training in response to suicide that promotes individual and community healing. Such training may include—
    • Enhancing collaboration among community members and local service providers to create an integrated, coordinated community response to suicide;
    • Communicating best practices for preventing suicide, including safe messaging, appropriate memorial services, and media guidelines;
    • Addressing the impact of suicide on the military and the larger community, and the increased risk that can result; and
    • Managing resources to assist key community and military service providers in helping the families, friends, and fellow servicemembers of a suicide victim through the processes of grieving and healing.
  • States the program shall include the provision of assistance with such training to the local communities of those servicemembers and families, to be provided in coordination with local community programs.
  • Requires the Secretary to collect and analyze “lessons learned” and suggestions from State National Guard and Reserve organizations with existing or developing suicide prevention and community response programs.

To read the full text of the bill, click here