1:09 PM PST, December 23, 2021
Two words, “Brandon Act,” may soon save the lives of military service members. That’s because Patrick and Teri Caserta don’t want anyone else’s child to die by suicide like their son.
Brandon Caserta served in the US Navy. His parents say bullying by a supervisor and hazing led to depression, and Brandon’s concerns went unaided.
“They told him to suck it up and get back to work,” Patrick Caserta said.
After Brandon died in 2018, the Casertas say they found letters from their son saying he hoped to prevent suicides in the military, and now Patrick and Teri have taken up his cause.
The Brandon Act passed through the U.S. Senate last week. Once President Biden signs it into law, service members can receive confidential mental health care and bypass the traditional chain of command by stating they have a “Brandon Act” concern.
“It is a life-saving tool, and it empowers service members to get mental health help when they need it, as they need it,” Caserta added.
How big is this problem? The Pentagon released a report in September 2021 saying there was a 41 percent increase in suicides among active-duty troops between 2015 and 2020.
In 2020 alone, 580 died by suicide.
And veterans’ mental health also has distressing statistics. According to the most recent numbers released by Veterans Administration, 45,861 American military veterans died by suicide in 2019.
The Casertas believe a law like the Brandon Act could have saved their son’s life. The Brandon Act will now honor him. “That is his legacy,” Patrick said. “He wanted to help people, and with the Brandon Act, we will be able to do that.”
Anyone struggling can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Veterans Crisis Hotline can also be reached 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing option 1.