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Obama signs suicide prevention act for veterans

President Obama makes remarks before signing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act
Obama: Stigma surrounding veterans and mental health "has to end" 04:09

A somber President Obama signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The president recounted the life and struggles of Hunt, a U.S. Marine who battled post-traumatic stress after combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hunt committed suicide in 2011.

"Too many of our troops and veterans are still struggling. They're recovering from injuries. They're mourning fellow comrades. They're trying to reconnect with family and friends who can never fully understand what they went through in war theater. For many of them, the war goes on in the flashbacks that come rushing forward, in the nightmares that don't go away. And that tension between then and now - that struggle to make the transition from war to home - is one that Clay Hunt knew all too well," the president said, before relating a story about Hunt sleeping in a fallen soldier's empty bunk shortly after his comrade had been killed.

The bill, the president said, increases peer support and outreach to veterans, helps recruit psychiatrists to the VA, makes it easier for veterans to find care and contains accountability measures to track efforts. It was passed unanimously by both houses of congress - a moment of bipartisanship the president noted.

"I wish I'd gotten the chance to know Clay, but in a way I feel that I do because there are a lot of incredible men and women all across this country, who like Clay, just love their country and want to serve," Mr. Obama said deliberately, appearing to hold back his emotions.

The president thanked Clay's parents for pushing the bill over the finish line and offered special acknowledgement to Senator John McCain, somebody who, the president said, "knows a little bit about service."

The president signed the bill flanked by Senators Richard Blumenthal and McCain, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Hunt's family and close friend.

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