The Brandon Project
Brandon Caserta was described as a respectful, compassionate, giving, and supportive man who always had a smile on his face. He cared about the wellbeing of others, whether they deserved it or not. Brandon was always active, whether it was swimming, riding his bike, doing karate, or playing football, he never stopped moving. This made joining the Navy an easy choice for him. He worked extremely hard to get a Navy SEAL contract and encouraged others to do so as well. Brandon Caserta showed many signs of depression while in SEAL training, yet no one listened. No one encouraged him to ask for help, no one cared enough to offer support, and the Navy did not offer him any resources. Unfortunately, in 2018, Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta died by suicide.
Veterans are faced with unique challenges, which make them more susceptible to a wide range of mental health conditions like depression. Depression treatments include a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and support from healthcare professionals. You can read more about a veteran’s unique struggle with depression here . However, in recent years the use of technology and brain stimulation has become more recognized in the treatment plan for depression. MeRT (Magnetic eResonance Therapy) is a form of brain stimulation that helps the parts of the brain that are not communicating as they should. A brain that is functioning optimally can lead to dramatic improvements and learning in all the traditional forms of therapy for depression. Learn how to make your first steps to getting a diagnosis for depression here. In Bradon’s final words he clarified how the Navy’s leadership and treatment was at fault. He mentioned that if certain changes are made within the Navy, other people won’t have to suffer the same fate he did. He truly believed that change would mean less suicides within the Navy. To push this change he wrote several letters to his commanding officers; luckily it worked.
The Brandon Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2021, and was created in an effort to erase the stigma associated with seeking mental health support in the military. This act was made to improve the process for service members to seek support, as well as hold people accountable for their actions, no matter rank. It aims to assure that there will be no retaliation or bullying from anyone in their commands; Brandon never asked for help because he knew of the retaliation he would receive. The Brandon Act also assures that service members can initiate a self-referred, command-facilitated mental health evaluation for any reason, at any time and in any environment, requiring that mental health providers will conduct those evaluations as soon as possible and will provide the necessary clinical care.
These evaluations do not require the involvement or permission of their leadership, they hold complete confidentiality. The Defense Health Agency worked closely with Military Departments to assure that service members are educated in the process of seeking support, as well as training for commanding officers and supervisors who receive these requests and evaluations. Brandon’s parents, Patrick and Teri Caserta continue to make strong efforts to implement the Brandon Act across all military services.