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Brandon Act aiming to improve mental health support for soldiers

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The Department of Defense has taken action in recent months to provide confidential mental health support to U.S. service members. Earlier this week, the Air Force and Space Force became the latest branches to see implementation of the new guidelines.

These outlines were created by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, with the express intent of improving referral processes when a soldier, sailor or airman asks for mental support.

DoD officials say that the Act requires each service to create policies, requirements and procedures for servicemen requesting a referral for mental health evaluations via a commanding officer.

More info on the Brandon Act's benefits is available here.

Secretary Gilbert Cisneros says this framework allows for service members to "seek help confidentially for any reason" at any time -- any where. Another focus is on reducing the stigma associated over mental health care.

The Brandon Act was named for a Petty Officer, Brandon Caserta, of the Navy -- who committed suicide several years ago. It became law in 2021, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. His parents claim that he was bullied, and did not receive any help for his mental struggles.

There are two phases to the plan. The first started in May, focussed on procedures for active duty. The second, is focused on policies for members not serving on active duty.

The DoD says they have a range of mental health supports available to military service members globally -- including options for local support.

If you need support there:

  • 988: The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - Anyone can contact the Crisis line through phone, text or message any time, for any mental distress.
  • The 988 line has a dedicated Veterans Crisis Line
  • EHN Crisis Hotline: (915-779-1800) - Staffed by locals, and a constant resource in El Paso, Emergence Health Network's hotline has specialists ready to hear you out.
  • Emergence Health Network.org - EHN is able to offer many different forms of support for mental health and wellness. From pet therapy to addiction treatment.
  • NAMI El Paso - As part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are some options listed on their website for support and connection. NAMI is focused on providing support to anyone with any sort of mental illness.

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

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