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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 719-12
August 31, 2012

Statement by Secretary Panetta on Mental Health Executive Order

             “I want to thank President Obama for his leadership in ensuring that America’s service members, military families and veterans receive the best possible mental health care and support.  Today's executive order will help the Department of Defense team with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services in a whole-of-government effort to improve care for those who have shouldered the burden of defending this country. 

            As a new generation of American veterans comes home from a decade of war, we are determined to meet the President's challenge to expand the quality and availability of mental health services for them.  As part of this effort, we are transforming our health care system to better meet the needs of those returning from war, including those battling unseen wounds and mental stress.  We are also encouraging service members to seek help if they need it, making clear that doing so is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, and that their careers will not be jeopardized if they make this courageous decision.  But there is still more work to do.  In particular, we are losing too many of our men and women to suicide.  The President has rightly challenged us to do even more to prevent suicide among service members, veterans, and military families, and the entire leadership of the Department of Defense shares his determination to put a stop to these tragedies.  In the months ahead, the civilian and uniformed leadership of the Department will remain focused on implementing a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy to deal with this urgent and complex challenge.” 

            The Department of Defense and Department of Veteran’s Affairs have a Military Crisis Line and encourages military families, veterans and their loved ones to call 1-800-273-8255 to gain access to a specially trained and qualified responder.