On Feb. 3, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act was passed by the Senate and was signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 12.
According to an article by USA Today, the bill’s name was derived from a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and campaigned on behalf of veterans health care. He lost this significant battle and took his own life in 2011 at age 28.
The main points of the Clay Hunt Act are to increase access to mental health care by creating community outreach programs, repaying student loans for those who specialize in psychiatry to increase mental health care at VA locations, and lastly to increase accountability.
According to Florida Southern College Mental Health Counselor Tom Norman, the same assistance is offered to veterans as is other full-time students.
“We only offer about seven sessions for all full-time students,” Norman said. “Anyone that is going to need more than seven sessions is going to be referred out into the community because we are a limited counseling center.”
Norman continues to explain that usually for veterans they are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and treating PTSD is similar for veterans as it is for rape victims.
“I was reminded that we tried for two years to get a veterans group on campus but there was not much interest,” Associate Vice President for Student Support Marcie Pospichal said. “We sent emails to all those supported by the GI Bill inviting them to a catered lunch to talk about what we might do to better support and integrate them but only one person showed up.”
In addition, Coordinator of Student Disability Services Jennifer Del Valle offers support for veterans that are suffering with PTSD or a brain injury that may be struggling academically.
However, veterans on-campus were instructed to seek assistance elsewhere.
“FSC doesn’t necessarily offer help as an institution, this private college simply doesn’t have the money to start offering assistance to veterans,” Jake Flannery said. “The school did direct me to a VA program at UCF that includes group and individual therapy sessions and things of that nature.”
Flannery was contracted to serve the United States Marine Corps for four years. However, he served three years and seven months in order to start college during the troop drawdown in 2013.
According to Associate Provost of Experiential Education Mary Crowe, there was an email sent out last semester about an information session hosted at FSC about the University of Central Florida’s PTSD research study for veterans.
According to a VA report in 2012, before Clay Hunt committed suicide, 27,062 (18.3%) of the 147,763 suicides reported were identified as having history of U.S. military service on death certificates. However, more than 23% reported “Unknown” of whether or not the individual was a veteran.
“Twenty-two veterans killing themselves everyday is a problem,” Flannery said. “People are going to be more reluctant to serve if they don’t think they will be taken care of if they come back mentally or emotionally damaged. Suicide prevention is a huge issue in military circles and for the most part, its not being executed correctly. Things are getting better, but this is because of the ridiculous amount of trial and error taken to get here. Everyone deals with their experiences differently, some people need more help than others.”
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