Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie told Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee lawmakers last week that the agency has accelerated efforts to prevent veteran suicides.
Wilkie emphasized during testimony Wednesday that prevention requires a collaborative approach across government and that it is an issue that impacts communities across the nation, The Hill reported.
“Suicide is a national public health issue that affects communities everywhere,” Wilkie wrote in prepared remarks. “Just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end veteran suicide.”
Wilkie also emphasized educating service members on mental health issues and proposed training boot camp recruits to recognize signs of mental illness and depression.
Lawmakers from both parties, however, pressed that more needs to be done on suicide prevention.
It’s something that you don’t want to talk about, but you have to talk about it,” Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said.
Wilkie’s testimony came as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) proposed a 911-style suicide hotline Wednesday to ensure veterans have easier access to the existing Veterans Crisis Line in an emergency, Military.com reported. Manchin said he will soon introduce legislation requiring the VA and Federal Communications Commission create a three-digit hotline number.