The number of Regular Force males who died by suicide in the last 25 years remains consistent with the Canadian general population, according to the Surgeon General’s annual Suicide Mortality report.
The report, which has been released annually since 2008, looked at the suicide rates and factors in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for the years 1995-2020. According to the Department of National Defence (DND), the report aims to help DND and the CAF support its members and prevent suicide.
“The health, safety, and well-being of all Canadian Armed Forces members is my top priority as Surgeon General. Normalizing conversations regarding mental health and suicide is integral to our understanding of the factors that lead to mental distress. Understanding these factors enables us to constantly improve the healthcare programs and services that we offer to our members. As clinicians, we know the benefits of reducing the stigma and encouraging an open dialogue when it comes to mental health, and investing in the education and awareness programs required to help our members. Please do not struggle in silence, we are here to help you,” said MGen. Marc Bilodeau, Surgeon General of the CAF.
According to the Suicide Mortality Report, which was released Wednesday, May 11, 2022, there is no statistically significant change in the overall suicide rate of CAF Regular Force males.
Specifically, in 2020, there were 12 deaths as a result of suicide, slightly down from the 15 in 2019.
According to the report, “Regular Force males with a history of deployment, and those without this history, both did not appear to have a suicide rate that was different from what would be expected in the Canadian male population after adjusting for age distribution differences.”
According to DND, the report’s findings help National Defence better understand suicide and suicide factors in the CAF to further refine ongoing suicide prevention efforts.
The suicide rate in the Canadian Army continues to remain higher than in the Royal Canadian Air Force or Royal Canadian Navy. However, after reaching their peak in the 2012-2016 period, suicides appear to be on the decline across the board.
According to the report, this may be because “the CAF has a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy, programs that aim to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care and increase both mental health education and resilience, and improved chain of command awareness of suicide risk and mental health.”
The reasons for deaths due to suicide are said to be complex and are typically a result of multiple factors. The report does not look at suicide rates of females or reserve members because there is insufficient data.
Importance of Report
According to DND, the report’s findings help National Defence better understand suicide and suicide factors in the CAF to further refine ongoing suicide prevention efforts. Additionally, the report will help DND make evidence-based decisions regarding investments in the CAF health and support programs.
“DND understands that military members can encounter stressful and sometimes traumatic situations as a result of the work they do in service to Canada. As such, the CAF continuously strives towards reducing barriers to care, including reducing the stigma around mental illness, and working to enhance the healthcare programs and services for CAF members. This includes the Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program and the Road to Mental Readiness Program,” stated a DND press release.
Every death due to suicide that is reported to Canadian Forces Health Services is investigated. If you or a loved one is looking for mental health support, click here to see the Military’s Mental Health initiatives and hotlines.