Obama signs Clay Hunt act to reduce suicide rates among veterans

16 February 2015 (Last Updated February 16th, 2015 18:30)

US President Barack Obama has signed an act that aims to reduce veteran suicide rates and improve access to quality mental healthcare.

US President Barack Obama has signed an act that aims to reduce veteran suicide rates and improve access to quality mental healthcare.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is named after Clay Hunt, a decorated marine veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder following deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and took his own life in 2011.

"This law will not bring Clay back, as much as we wish it would, but the reforms that it puts in place would've helped and they'll help others."

Obama said: "This law will not bring Clay back, as much as we wish it would, but the reforms that it puts in place would've helped and they'll help others who are going through the same challenging process that he went through."

The act builds on efforts to improve mental health access for Veterans Affairs (VA) by seeking annual third party evaluations of VA's mental healthcare and suicide prevention programmes, as well as creating a centralised website with resources and information about the range of mental health services available.

In addition, it puts in place a three-year pilot programme using peer support to assist veterans transitioning from active duty and encourages collaboration between the VA and non-profit mental health organisations.

Obama's proposed 2016 budget also includes more than $7bn for the VA to continue its focus on expanding and transforming mental health services for veterans.

Specifically, the money will be spent on treatment for post-traumatic stress, ensuring timely access to mental healthcare and treatment for military sexual trauma.