It is estimated that an average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day. Of those who have sought help, studies have shown a connection to the prescription of opioids and benzodiazepines. Though there have been attempts to research the possible contributing factors driving deaths among Veterans, the findings from this research have not provided viable therapeutics, methodologies, or questioned current practices sufficiently enough to identify solutions for Veterans.
The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, was passed with the intention of making aggressive improvements to mental healthcare for Veterans. This legislation strives to improve outreach to Veterans and offer new mental healthcare options in a multitude of ways, such as bolstering the VA’s mental health workforce, increasing the number of telehealth locations for rural Veterans, and mandating research into the nature of opioids and benzodiazepines in relation to Veteran deaths by suicide.
In addition to supporting this legislation and the research it proposes, we also believe that this study must be designed with objectivity and transparency of its researchers in order to provide meaningful results. Given that Veteran deaths by suicide have remained at alarming rates regardless of the previous efforts to investigate the causes and provide treatment, we are calling for strict vetting processes of all researchers, as well as the implementation of an oversight panel to limit biases for or against opioids and benzodiazepines.
It is imperative that this study is designed to ensure real solutions so that our Veterans and Servicemembers struggling against suicide can receive the best therapeutics and have access to multiple methodologies for recovery.