PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As the military grapples with active-duty and veteran suicide rates, Congressional Delegates Bobby Scott (D) VA-3 and Elaine Luria (D) VA-2 sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, urging him to appoint a Director Of Psychological Health at each Navy and Marine Corps installation.
This comes after the two Congress members toured the USS George Washington. Twelve crew members connected to the Navy ship have died by suicide in just over a year. Three of them died during the same week in April 2022.
“The department of defense has already directed this to happen, and it happens in the Army and the Air Force and we need to make sure we are doing everything we can in the Navy to make sure the mental health needs are being met,” Rep. Scott told 10 On Your Side.
“We want answers. Where are they in the plan? Have they overlooked this directive? Do they have something they plan to implement at a future point in time?” Rep. Luria added.
The director is accountable, they said, and an advocate for both sailors and mental health professionals. The person makes sure sailors have what they need and can easily access resources.
For instance, the person could address issues with the time a ship sits in overhaul. This has been stated to be a problem on the George Washington and other ships. Things such as housing, transportation, and the ability to connect with family and friends, Luria said, are at issue.
“All of these things just wear down on sailors year after year being in this kind of environment.”
Other things, the Congress members admit, are quite complicated.
“There is no one solution that’s going to fix all of this,” Luria said.
“We just need to make sure we are doing everything we can,” Scott added.
Appointing one person to oversee mental health in each installation he said, is one step in the right direction.
10 On Your Side reached out to Secretary Del Toro. His public affairs office indicated they have not yet seen the letter, but would get back in touch.
Meantime, while the Army and Air Force do have psychological directors, both branches continue to struggle with suicide rates.
Last year, the army reported its highest number of suicides in 20 years.