Gillibrand for improved mental health services

Throughout Cindy Roberts’ Queensbury home, she proudly honors her daughter, Sgt. Kristie Roberts, who twice enlisted in the Army National Guard.

“She always was a volunteer, always wanted to do things to help other people,” Cindy Roberts said.

Kristie Roberts’ uniform, photos and signs all show years of service to her country. Whenever she was home, she lit up the room, her mother recalled.

“She would start a story, ‘So, there I was.’ That was always her catch thing, and my husband always said, ‘If she started with that, you wanted to hear that story,’” Cindy Roberts said.

She said during her daughter’s time in the service, she got frustrated with not being deployed, while also dealing with her own challenges. In 2012, Kristie Roberts died due to suicide at age 27.

“She would always say to me, ‘Mom, it’s never just one thing,’ and that rings in my ears all the time,” Cindy Roberts said. “She would say it’s never just one thing.”

According to a new report from the US Department of Defense, 518 service members died by suicide last year. That was the focus of a US Senate Armed Services hearing on Wednesday.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to address the lapses in getting service members timely access to mental heath care.

Right now, the wait time for seeing a therapist is 28 days, according to Gillibrand.

“Service members should not have to fear the reaction or the professional repercussion they face if they seek mental health care,” Gillibrand said.

The senator is also calling on the Defense Department to have more licensed behavioral health providers on hand, and training for commanders to spot indicators of struggles.

“There’s a great deal of stigma if you want to serve in the military today,” Gillibrand said. “If you disclose you had mental health services or mental health medications, you’re ineligible.”

For Cindy Roberts, who is now the president of the New York Chapter for American Gold Star Mothers, her focus is to continue raising awareness and check in with loved ones.

“Anything we can do to educate the public helps our veterans,” she said. “It’s a sad situation, and I think it’s an uphill climb. Whatever we can do to share and get people talking.”

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