Indiana National Guard screens 13,000 under new US suicide prevention law

Army veteran David Dickerson of Oklahoma City, Okla., joins others to place 1,892 flags representing veteran and service members who have died by suicide to date in 2014, on the National Mall in Washington on March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — One-hundred thirty six: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said that is how many Indiana veterans committed suicide in 2014.

It was a terribly dark night in 2009 for 21-year-old Jacob Sexton. He was home in Indiana, on leave with the National Guard, after serving in Afghanistan.

Jeff Sexton, Jacob’s father said, “Things got a little too tough for him. He’d seen too many things … too many children get killed.”

In a split-second, Jeff Sexton’s son, Jacob, took his own life.

Jeff Sexton said, “It destroyed me. It destroyed my wife.”

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana, spoke about a law that is helping to save more lives.

Signed into law in 2014, the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act requires an annual health assessment for every military service member. Over the last two years, the Indiana National Guard has worked to implement the law, with more than 13,000 Guard members screened ever year.

Army Maj. Scott Edwards, chief behavioral sciences officer with the Indiana National Guard, said, “When the service member reports some sort of mental health trouble, we have on the ground at each event trained mental health service providers to come right alongside those service members and being to help. Then we watch and follow them all the way through the recover process.”

Donnelly created the law and said it tackles issues like post-traumatic stress disorder at home.

“Many of them have had two, three, four, five tours and are almost more comfortable overseas than when they come back home,” the senator said. “Our job is to make sure everything is squared away.”

On Monday, Indiana National Guard officials said on average that it loses from three to seven soldiers a year to suicide. Sexton said he hopes this law shatters the stigma in the military of even just asking for help with emotional issues or mental health

Jeff Sexton, Jacob’s dad, said, “As a veteran myself, I knew back then that you just bucked up and ate it. You kept your feelings to yourself. We can’t do that any longer.”

Sexton feels like this law could’ve helped save his son.

Here are resources for members of the military: