WASHINGTON – During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan pushed Pentagon officials to strengthen suicide prevention efforts, sharing the story of Sean Cloutier of Concord, who died by suicide at the age of 22 after joining the United States Army and whose mother now advocates for increased suicide prevention measures focused on service members and veterans.
To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.
“I want to talk about Sean Cloutier from Concord, New Hampshire,” Senator Hassan said. “On 9/11, he was just turning five years old, it was his birthday, he was wearing his birthday crown when Al Qaeda terrorists attacked our country. Sean announced that day that he wanted to join the military. Fourteen years later, he did just that, signing up for the Army right out of high school.”
Senator Hassan continued, “A few years after joining the Army, Sean attempted suicide. He received some medical attention, but not enough. And two months later Sean died by suicide at the age of 22.”
Senator Hassan pressed the witness, Gilbert Cisneros, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness at Department of Defense, on what the agency is doing to specifically combat suicide among service members.
Ciseneros discussed the recent initiative to help combat service member and veteran suicide and its work to help ensure that there is time and space between a person in crisis and their access to lethal means, including firearms and medications.
Senator Hassan is leading bipartisan efforts in the Senate to strengthen mental health services for veterans and service members. The Senator recently cosponsored the bipartisan Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) Act to strengthen the Defense Department’s suicide prevention efforts. The Senate also recently passed her bipartisan legislation to designate one week per year as “Buddy Check Week” to organize outreach events and educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks. Additionally, the Senator recently introduced bipartisan legislation to help connect newly separated veterans - who are often at the highest risk for suicide - with critical mental health support through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).