As we approach another Veterans Day, I find myself reflecting on the commitment we owe to our military personnel and veterans. Working as the policy manager at Active Minds, the importance of mental health advocacy is prominent, especially for those who’ve served our nation. Two transformative policies that have the power to greatly support veterans’ mental health include The Brandon Act and H.R. 3011 — DOD Task Force on Mental Health.
In December of 2021, President Joe Biden signed The Brandon Act into law as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation marks a significant milestone in addressing mental health challenges faced by our military personnel. Its passage signals a transformative approach to mental health within the military, emphasizing confidential self-referrals for service members. The journey doesn’t end with its approval, however. The focus now shifts to its continued effective implementation in ensuring that the objectives are in action.
On the other hand, H.R. 3011, which aims to establish a comprehensive task force for enhancing mental health support within the Department of Defense, is still navigating the legislative process. While it promises to provide a holistic approach to mental health concerns, it awaits congressional approval. The passage of this bill would further demonstrate a committed effort to prioritize and address the mental well-being of our service members.
The Brandon Act began with Petty Officer Brandon Caserta, a dedicated and promising young sailor. At the age of 21, he tragically lost his life to suicide, a result of enduring challenges in his service environment. Brandon sought help during these difficult times, but the barriers to accessing mental health services, coupled with the stigma of self-reporting, made it challenging for him to receive the support he needed. His story underscores the urgent need for change within the military, emphasizing the importance of mental health support and a compassionate, understanding environment for all service members.
The Brandon Act introduces a confidential referral system, allowing service members to proactively seek mental health support without fear of reprisal. This pivotal legislation marks a transformative approach to military mental health, prioritizing the well-being and safety of our troops. It emphasizes a commitment to evolving from an environment where service members may have feared being honest about their mental health, to one where the total health of all members is valued.
In the same way The Brandon Act focuses on increasing the accessibility of resources surrounding veterans’ mental health, H.R. 3011 lays the foundation for a robust task force dedicated to strengthening mental health provisions within the Department of Defense. This initiative represents a concerted effort to holistically address and enhance mental health care for our service members. By incorporating diverse voices, the initiative aims to foster a holistic understanding and response to the unique needs of our service members.
Beyond its establishment, the task force’s mandate extends to ongoing evaluation and improvement of mental health support for our military personnel. This commitment underscores a dedication to ensuring that the care and resources provided remain relevant, effective, and responsive to the evolving needs of our Armed Forces.
At Active Minds, our vision aligns seamlessly with the essence of these policies — as an organization dedicated to serving youth and young adults, we recognize that the largest age demographic in the U.S. military is those under 25. In 2021, it was reported that there are nearly 600,000 active duty members of the military under the age of 25, more than double the next biggest age pool. Every day, I’m surrounded by passionate advocates, and together, we strive to champion the mental well-being of our military personnel. We believe that true strength is in acknowledging vulnerabilities and seeking support when needed.
As we commemorate Veterans Day, I urge everyone to take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by our military personnel. Let’s pledge to be their allies, advocating for veterans’ mental health — you can find your representatives and learn how to contact them in support of H.R. 3011 here. These policies are a step in the right direction, and at Active Minds, we’re committed to supporting and amplifying them.
For those in the military community seeking assistance or more information, please reach out to the following resources:
Military OneSource: A comprehensive free service provided by the Department of Defense offering confidential non-medical counseling and a range of information and resources.
Veterans Crisis Line: A confidential hotline tailored for veterans and service members in crisis, with phone, text, and online chat options.