Indiana National Guard says it has fully implemented new mental health assessments

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana National Guard officials said Monday they have fully implemented the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act.

The law authored by Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) requires an annual mental health assessment for all service members no matter their status – guard, reserve or active duty.

“More service members feel comfortable admitting they’re struggling, and more are asking for help,” said Maj. Scott Edwards, the chief behavioral sciences officer for the Indiana National Guard.

The provision is named after Jacob Sexton, an Indiana guardsman who committed suicide while home on leave from serving overseas.

“Jacob had a problem with wanting to come forward with his problems,” said Jeff Sexton, Jacob’s dad. “With this law now, it gives them a chance to come forward without feeling they’re going to be persecuted for saying they’ve got a problem.”

The assessment, which is incorporated into an annual physical exam, now looks at everything from medications to emotions and conditions like PTSD and immediately connects soldiers with mental health professionals if red flags are identified.

On average, Indiana National Guard officials said between three and seven service members commit suicide each year.

“That’s why we want to continue to have mental health assessments,” Donnelly said. “It’s why, for our vets, we have a significant problem that has to be dealt with as well.”

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