Actions

Parents of sailor who died by suicide at Naval Station Norfolk carry on Brandon Act awareness push

Teri Caserta: 'The fact that I'm tired of all the military suicides, and it appears that nobody is doing anything about it, I had to write someone'
Screen Shot 2023-05-05 at 2.50.18 PM.png
Posted at 4:05 PM, Jan 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-06 16:10:10-05

NORFOLK, Va. — Teri and Patrick Caserta have been fighting for more than five years for the military to better address mental health for service members.

Their son Brandon died by suicide at Naval Station Norfolk in 2018.

This week, Teri wrote an open letter to Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin, which was published in her local newspaper in Arizona.

US Navy Sailors

News

Navy continues to take steps to address Sailor mental health

Brendan Ponton
6:12 PM, Dec 01, 2023

"The fact that I'm tired of all the military suicides, and it appears that nobody is doing anything about it, I had to write someone," Teri Caserta said Friday.

In the letter, Caserta calls on Sec. Austin to improve accountability among command when there is a suicide in a unit and to spread more awareness about the law named after their son, the Brandon Act.

The Brandon Act lets service members confidentially self-report mental health concerns outside of their chain of command.

Military

Top Admiral stresses that Sailors should not suffer in silence

Kurt Williams
9:33 PM, Sep 25, 2023

The Casertas say bullying in Brandon's command led him to take his own life.

"We wrote a bill, got it passed and spent all our time and everything and nothing is really changing," said Patrick Caserta.

The law was due to be implemented by mid-2023, but continued suicides in the military led local Congresswoman Jen Kiggans to question its implementation.

military

Military

Starting Friday, Brandon Act will require mental health services for U.S. troops

Web Staff
10:42 PM, May 02, 2023

A Dept. of Defense report from October says 492 service members died by suicide in 2022, which was down from 524 in 2021.

Last month, Kiggans wrote Sec. Austin a letter asking how the Brandon Act is working so far and if all the branches of the military are in compliance.

On Friday, a spokesperson for Kiggans said the DoD responded before Christmas acknowledging receipt of the letter and saying they would respond within the next five months.

Watch Previous Coverage: Navy continues to take steps to address Sailor mental health following string of suicides

Navy continues to take steps to address Sailor mental health following string of suicides

The timeline "surprised the Congresswoman, given that her questions are not overly complicated or in-depth," the spokesperson added.

"It's going to take some time, but the problem here is people are dying," said Patrick Caserta. "We don't have time. Every day is critical in all of this."

The Dept. of Defense didn't respond to a request for comment from News 3 Friday.

Marine Colonel David Hyman explains to News 3 anchor Blaine Stewart how he stepped in to save a sailor's life.

Military

Marine saves young sailor's life in chance encounter on Naval Station Norfolk

Blaine Stewart
5:14 AM, Oct 02, 2023

Their suicide report from October outlines five different strategies the department is taking to try and prevent suicides, including fostering a supportive environment.

The Air Force also recently publicly shared a video promoting the Brandon Act on the department's visual information distribution service.

The Casertas say they won't stop until the number of suicides is zero.

Watch Previous Coverage: Starting Friday, Brandon Act will require mental health services for U.S. troops

Starting Friday, Brandon Act will require mental health services for U.S. troops

"They are truly preventable," said Teri Caserta.

"The goal is zero and anything above zero is unacceptable," said Patrick Caserta.

They expect to continue to have to work to update the Brandon Act to help and prevent what happened to their son.

If anyone is experiencing a crisis, you can call 988 to get assistance.

CBS6-News-at-4pm-and-Jennifer-Hudson-480x360.jpg

Entertainment

Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.