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Soldier and Veteran Suicide Prevention Hearing

Purpose and Participants

This paper is a summary of a government meeting regarding the prevention of suicide among members of the military. People who work in the profession tend to encounter potentially severe stress throughout service, which can lead to mental issues. As such, Senators Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Martha McSally, Dan Sullivan, and Thom Tillis meant with several government office directors and professor Ron Kessler to discuss the situation.

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The agenda was to discuss the current and future situation regarding suicides in the military and suggest improvements. The Subcommittee wanted to hear about effective suicide prevention methods from professionals and discuss their further application in the military. The hearing took place on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in a dedicated room for such events. All participants were equipped with microphones, and several cameras recorded the proceedings from different angles.

Committee Background Information

The Subcommittee on Personnel is a part of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services. According to “Subcommittees” (n.d.), it manages “military and DOD civilian personnel policies; end strengths for military personnel; military personnel compensation and benefits; military health care; and military nominations” (Subcommittee on Personnel section, para. 1). Its members are Senators Tillis (chairman), Gillibrand (ranking member), Rounds, Warren, McSally, Duckworth, and Scott.

As suicide is frequently the result of mental issues that can emerge due to the stress of military occupations, the Subcommittee has to manage its prevention. It also provides aid to the families of the people who die in service or after it for whatever reason, including suicide. As such, the matter frequently comes to the organization’s attention and warrants a separate hearing.

Topic Discussion and the Committee Process

The rise of suicide rates over time was one of the issues discussed during the hearing. According to “Soldier and veteran suicide prevention” (2019), Michael Colston began discussing the issue and was followed by Matthew Miller, Richard McKeon, and Ron Kessler, who provided more details and statistics. The Senators then asked additional questions to gain a better understanding of the problem and move on to the discussion of possible remedies.

The purpose was most likely to answer specific questions that they had after establishing a shared base of knowledge. “The role of committees” (n.d.) notes that committees and subcommittees will usually gather written comments, hold hearings to collect additional information, refine the measures they create, and send the results to the Senate for approval. The hearing described in this paper was the second stage of the process, where Senators were discussing an issue in detail to understand the potential countermeasures better.

Key Stakeholder Positions

There are several different groups of stakeholders in the situation: military personnel, their families, and care providers. All of them support the goal of reducing the number of suicides in the military due to the fundamental nature of the problem. Members of the military generally do not want to perform the act but are sometimes pushed into it by circumstances beyond their control. As such, they would like to have improved access to mental care that would help them resolve their issues before they become severe and life-threatening. However, the military has set institutions that engage in practices such as bullying and exacerbated the situation.

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The families of these people stand to lose their loved ones and providers and have a similar stance as a result. Lastly, the providers would like to provide that care but do not possess enough resources to expand comprehensive care to the entirety of the military.

Key Interactions

There were three key interactions in the meeting: Richard McKeon’s report on suicides in the military, Senator Gillibrand’s questioning regarding toxic environments in the military, and her inquiry into confidential mental illness reporting settings. In the first case, the chief of the Suicide Prevention Branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration discussed his personal experience with suicide and the overall situation in the U.S.

His testimony was a valuable point for several of the senators and directed a significant part of the discussion. Senator Gillibrand’s identification of abusive military environments was one topic that resulted in discussion with Michael Colston and Ron Kessler. The final interaction was the same Senator’s question regarding the reporting of mental issues and personnel concerns about their superiors learning about their mental illness history. Matthew Miller and Ron Kessler responded that psychologists always tell their patients that everything is confidential and discussed specific experiences of not sharing personal information with commanders.

Outcomes of the Meeting

The purpose of the hearing was to gather information about suicides in the military and the circumstances that surround it. The outcome was a success, with the subcommittee members resolving their concerns and making several conclusions.

Concerning the rising numbers of suicides, the Senators acknowledged that there was no single solution and that a comprehensive effort would be necessary. Thom Tillis provided an example of clarifying the limits of private information sharing to the command to prevent unethical behaviors (“Soldier and veteran suicide prevention,” 2019). Overall, the Senators gained a better understanding of what topics they had to address and how they might do it and may have become able to draft better programs.


Soldier and veteran suicide prevention. (2019). 

Subcommittees. (n.d.). 

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The role of committees in the legislative process. (n.d.). Web.

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