The Brandon Act Progresses in Congress for Active Duty Suicide Solutions
Written by Lindsey Rowland on 09/16/2021
The Brandon Act is a bill that would change how the military deals with mental health by using the code word “The Brandon Act” to initiate immediate access to mental healthcare.
The Brandon Act was added to the House National Defense Authorization Act by bill originator Congressman Seth Moulton (D) through mark-up, but not the Senate NDAA, so it will be introduced by Senator Mark Kelly as a stand-alone bill. Which is exactly what happened last Congress.
With September being Suicide Awareness & Prevention Month in addition to the Afghanistan withdraw, which has resulted in additional mental health concerns across both the military and veteran community, there is no better time to highlight and pass this piece of legislation.
However, The Brandon Act has taken a back seat to the Vanessa Guillen Military Improvement Act this Congress, but The Brandon Act is equally important and I would argue even more so, as mental health is a crucial component to addressing military sexual assault.
As a former company commander with 10th Mountain Division and now a retired military officer due to PTSD, I know that the emergency for mental health and sexual assault reform are equally important and should fall in legislative marching step together.
Looking back on my 10-year service time with two deployments to Iraq, I too fell into the category of not fighting the mental health stigma in our military and remained silent. I needed mental health help after my first deployment and definitely after my second. I put a band aid on whatever issues I may have had with alcohol, working out and hard work being my sole outlets.
I then would perpetuate this stigma as a company commander and although behavioral health services were always an option for our troops, it was never encouraged. I was part of the problem. To make matters even worse, during downsizing we were told to weed out those that had sought mental health help and refer them for administrative separation. Again, I was part of the problem.
I would ultimately ‘get mine’ later in my career and would be medically retired for PTSD, losing the Foreign Affairs Officer career that I had worked so hard to obtain.
I tell you this story because now, 6 years later, I am not sure the stigma has changed that much, but I am not there for a first hand account. However, the suicide numbers seem to indicate this.
Brandon Caserta whom this bill is named after, would suffer under toxic leadership for an extended period of time, watching his Navy internal advocates drop off, as he fought to take his rightful place in a career field that he had worked hard to obtain. Ultimately, he would feel there was no other way out, leaving a paper trail in the aftermath that illustrated his mental anguish and specifically laid out what improvements he sought for the military behavioral health system.
His parents Teri & Patrick Caserta stood by him with endless support and would ultimately get Congress to introduce The Brandon Act two different times. They would become and are the strongest advocates for change in a stigma that has plagued our forces at a greater rate than anything else.
In closing, The Brandon Act would change how the military deals with mental health by instituting the code word “The Brandon Act” to initiate immediate access to mental healthcare. It erases for that moment in which it is initiated the noise surrounding the mental health stigma and provides the service member with immediate care. There is no better time for The Brandon Act to become law. I don’t want to be part of the problem any longer.
Carry On Podcast
The Brandon Act Update: https://www.heroesmediagroup.com/podcast/carry-on-the-brandon-act/
HMG Guest Writer:
Lindsey Rowland, Army Captain (Retired)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Heroes Media Group