Military suicide bill inspired by Indiana solider

By The Associated Press | Posted - Dec. 19, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana soldier's suicide in a Muncie movie theater during a 2009 leave has led to a federal law that will change how the military handles mental health issues.

The national defense bill signed into law by President Barack Obama on Friday includes a provision requiring all members of the military to receive annual mental health assessments beginning next year. The Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

Sexton, an Indiana National Guardsman from Farmland, killed himself while on a 15-day leave from Afghanistan. He was 21.

Police said at the time that Sexton had argued with theater employees over having to show identification to see the R-rated horror comedy "Zombieland." Twenty minutes into the film, a friend handed Sexton a 9 mm handgun, at the guardsman's request, and he then shot himself in the head.

Sexton's father, Jeff Sexton, said Friday that he believes his son wanted help but was afraid to speak up.

Statistics show 475 people in the military committed suicide last year, while 132 died in combat.

In addition to the mental health screenings, the Sexton act takes steps to protect service members' privacy and requires a Pentagon report to evaluate existing military mental health practices and provide recommendations for improvement, Donnelly said in a statement.

He told WISH-TV (http://bit.ly/1GAgoeR ) that his hope is to eliminate military suicide.

"I was asked by somebody, they said, 'What's your real goal?' I said 'My real goal is to get it to zero.'"

The bill passed the Senate on what would have been Jacob Sexton's 27th birthday.

Jeff Sexton said he hopes the legislation changes the stigma of mental illness and leads more members of the military to seek the help they need.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast