The 2020 Report on Suicide Mortality in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was released to the public last week by the Department of National Defence (DND).
The report allows the Department to understand better suicide in the CAF by reviewing the findings. The findings also help refine DND’s ongoing suicide prevention efforts.
The report is designed to help DND make evidence-based decisions regarding investments in the CAF health and support programs.
Harjit S. Sajjan, minister of defence stated in a press release, “When we lose a Canadian Armed Forces member to suicide, it has a lasting and tragic effect on their families, friends, colleagues and the Defence Team as a whole. Suicide prevention is a top priority for the Canadian Armed Forces and we want every one of our members to know that if you are suffering, please reach out – there is help and support available for you.”
The report’s results are split into six different categories:
- Mental Health Diagnosis of Those Who Died by Suicide in 2019
- Work/Life Stressors of Those Who Died by Suicide in 2019
- Crude Suicide Rates, 1995 – 2019
- Comparison of CAF Regular Force Male Suicide Rates to Canadian Rates Using Standardized Mortality Ratios,
- 1995 – 2018
- Impact of Deployment on CAF Regular Force Male Suicide Rates
- Impact of Environmental Command on CAF Regular Force Male Suicide Rates
These findings provided an update that looked at the timeframe of 1995 to 2019.
Some of the main findings were: “from 1995 to 2019, there was no statistically significant change in the overall suicide rate of CAF Regular Force males. The number of Regular Force males who died by suicide is consistent with the age-adjusted male suicide rates in the Canadian general population. The reasons for deaths due to suicide can be complex. There are typically multiple potential contributing factors for each death from suicide,” the report read.
While suicide rates in the CAF did not increase with any statistical significance over the period of observation described in the report’s findings, the report mentioned that small numbers could limit the ability or power of statistical assessments to detect statistical significance.
The report also noted the increased risk in Regular Force males under Army command in comparison to those under non-Army commands is a consistent finding that continues to be under observation by the CAF.
According to a press release, the annual report is one part of the CAF’s suicide prevention efforts highlighted in the CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada’s Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy.
Since 2008, the Surgeon General Report on Suicide Mortality in the CAF has been released. This report provides information on deaths due to suicide in the actively serving CAF population.
Investigations are done on every death due to suicide that is reported to Canadian Forces Health Services. However, the press release noted that the statistical analysis in the 2020 Report on Suicide Mortality centres on Regular Force males because the number of known deaths due to suicide in females and Reserve Force members is not large enough for an accurate analysis.
As well as reducing the stigma around mental health issues, Major-General Marc Bilodeau, Surgeon General of the Canadian Armed Forces, informed that work is constantly happening to improve the high-quality health care programs and services offered to CAF members.
“As clinicians, we know how important it is to remove barriers to care and support those in crisis. This means encouraging an open dialogue when it comes to mental health and investing in the education and awareness programs required to help our members,” he said.
For more information on the 2020 Surgeon General Report on Suicide Mortality in the Canadian Armed Forces, visit here.
Access information on Suicide and Suicide Prevention in the Canadian Armed Forces here.
To view the Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy, visit here.
If you’re interested in Mental Health resources for CAF members and families, visit here.