As the Armed Forces draws down operations in Afghanistan, the need to address mental health concerns comes more into focus. Suicide prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the most pressing matters in the military community, and one senator from Indiana has proposed a new way to address the issue. Senator Joe Donnelly has crafted the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, a bill designed to require yearly mental heath assessments for active duty troops and reserve members, Military Times reports.

Need for broader approach
Donnelly says that while there are helpful programs available to many servicemembers, sometimes some people fall through the cracks. Furthermore, he says behaviors that could signal someone who is struggling with the effects of PTSD can be missed by peers, coworkers and family members so it's important to have a professional screenings on a regular basis.

"If problems or risk factors are identified, servicemembers would be referred to behavioral health specialists," Donnelly told Congress, adding that these regular screenings could provide servicemembers with a record they can take with them after they've left the Armed Forces to improve their healthcare once they've reached veteran status.

Focus on transition grows
While Donnelly's proposed bill would be a nationwide effort, there are also initiatives taking place on a much smaller scale. For instance, the Army recently opened Embedded Behavioral Health clinics with each brigade on post, reports CBS affiliate WTVF. The program has been particularly effective at Kentucky's Fort Campbell, where the clinics have given soldiers the chance to visit with mental healthcare professionals without having to wait for an appointment.

A substantial need
Whether through proposed legislation or programs on base, addressing the mental health of servicemembers is critical, especially as thousands of troops are expected to separate from service in the coming years. Suicide prevention came to the forefront in 2012 after statistics revealed a record number of servicemembers took their own lives. According to NBC News, more than 349 troops committed suicide last year, a figure which was higher than the total number of servicemembers killed in action. Furthermore, with an estimated 20 percent of troops affected by PTSD, addressing mental health is one of the most important issues facing the community.