UNITED STATES SENATE
Dear Mr. Rudow:
Thank you for writing to me regarding suicides committed by members of our Armed Forces. I am deeply concerned about this issue, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your comments.
Tragically, the rate of suicides among members of our military has increased significantly over the past decade. According to the Department of Defense, more than 1,100 service members took their own lives between 2005 and 2009 - an average of one suicide every 36 hours. In July 2011, the U.S. Army alone reported 32 potential suicides - the highest number since the Army started releasing this data in June 2010. These figures are truly alarming.
In response, we have taken some important steps, including working to eliminate the stigma within the military surrounding mental health injuries. This is critical because too often our service men and women do not seek help because of concerns about how they will be perceived. However, more must be done.
That is why, on May 25, 2011, I led a bipartisan group of Senators in writing to President Obama to urge him to reverse a long-standing policy of withholding Presidential letters of condolence to the families of service members who commit suicide - a policy that reinforces the stigma within the military surrounding mental health issues. I am pleased that on July 6, 2011, the Obama Administration announced it would reverse this hurtful policy and begin to send Presidential condolence letters to these grieving families, providing much needed comfort.
As co-chair of the Senate Military Family Caucus, be assured that I will continue working to prevent the tragedy of military suicide and to ensure that service members and their families have the resources and support they deserve.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Please feel free to write to me again about this or any other issue of importance to you.
United States Senator