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Minnesota Legislature

House OKs creation of Veterans Suicide Awareness Day

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn presents HF586, a bill that would declare the first Saturday of October as Veterans Suicide Awareness Day, on the House floor March 11. Photo by Andrew VonBank

The first Saturday of October would be designated as Veterans Suicide Awareness Day, under a bill passed 127-0 by the House Monday.

“This is a very simple bill about a not-so-simple issue,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), the sponsor of HF586.

She said veterans are 1 1/2 times more likely to die by suicide than civilians. That translates to more than 6,100 suicides per year.

“Each one of those veterans has a family, in a community who cared about them,” she said.

House passes bill creating Veterans Suicide Awareness Day 3/11/19

But often, she said, suicidal veterans don’t get the help they need due to the topic being taboo in military circles. “You cannot fix a problem if you aren’t able to face the fact that the problem exists in the first place.”

The bill now goes to the Senate where Sen. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids) is the sponsor.

Family members of Justin Miller, a U.S. Marine who committed suicide a year ago, were present for the vote and received a standing ovation from members.

Becker-Finn noted that Alissa Harrington, Justin’s older sister, has been a strong advocate for raising awareness of veterans’ suicide, including presenting testimony when the bill was heard in House committees last month.

“This is a public promise to continue to work with veterans and their families to make sure we are doing all we can to prevent these deaths from occurring in the first place,” Becker-Finn said.

The bill would direct the governor to issue a proclamation honoring this observance each year.

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