A message from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

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MHS Colleagues,

Mental health care is a priority focus for the Military Health System every single day, but as May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to highlight the effort we are making to address this critical need.

Secretary Cisneros signed the implementing policy for the Brandon Act on May 5, with Teri and Patrick Caserta present.  The Act, designed to help service members access timely mental health evaluations, is named for their son Brandon, a young sailor who died by suicide.  We welcome this measure as part of our approach to suicide prevention and mental health and it was a privilege to meet the Casertas.

One of my personal goals is to do everything possible to eliminate the stigma that too often still inhibits our people from seeking and getting care.  Mental health is health, period – and we need to embrace that fact and encourage and support people in need of this care. We are working to develop training to help educate those in leadership roles on how to support their people, to look for signs that someone is struggling and to enable them to get help.  Efforts are underway to address the shortage of mental health providers in our system.  We know the answers aren’t simple, but we are committed to finding them.

There is a wide range of resources available to help us all learn more about mental health, and they can be found here: Mental Health Spotlight.  Please take time to learn about them, to know what is available and how to access them.  Our collective success in improving mental health across the total force starts with an individual commitment by each of us, to learn as much as we can about this issue and how to put the resources we have in play, to demonstrate by our own actions and words the importance of mental health.  We need to normalize seeking mental health care so it becomes as accepted as seeing a doctor for the flu or a broken bone. 

As leaders of the MHS, we have a particular responsibility to help move these goals forward.  I know I can count on you to keep mental health priorities in mind this month, and throughout the year.

Very Respectfully,


Lester Martinez-López, M.D., M.P.H.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

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