Established by the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service, the Canadian Armed Forces Sentinel Program is a peer support network made up of trained and supervised volunteer members of all ranks.
The program is designed to play an essential role in the detection, prevention, and support for military members in distress.
Military personnel going through a difficult time may find it challenging to ask for help for many reasons. The Sentinel Program was established to help military personnel make the first step towards the appropriate support resources available.
The program initially started in 2007, and steadily grew to 2,000 members in 2016. At present, there are more than 3,000 qualified Sentinels available with even more Canadian Armed Forces members ready to offer their support to those who need it.
“Honestly, [the Sentinel program] is for anybody who needs someone to talk too,” said Corporal Bradley Birrell, recipient of CFB Shilo’s Soldier of the Year 2018. Cpl Birrell has been involved with the program ever since it was inaugurated on base.
“It’s soldiers helping soldiers. It’s easier for someone to talk to one of their own ranks or position. Anything from trying to help if they have mental health [issues] or are struggling through stress, you help them find resources for help,” added Cpl Birrell.
The program works through peers being best situated to identify signs of distress in colleagues and aid them in finding appropriate support.
Sentinels encourage dialogue and networking in order to reduce the effects of isolation. The main focuses of the program are simplicity and humanity.
Instead of being trained in specific areas of expertise, Sentinels act as guides to resources, support programs, as well as tools available to CAF members and their families to facilitate identification and access.
The Sentinel Program is continuously working on evolving.
Once members are qualified, they are required to take ongoing training each year to maintain their knowledge and discover resources newly available.
Civilians are also able to volunteer with the approval of their local chain of command and local Sentinel Chaplain.
To volunteer for the Canadian Armed Forces’ Sentinel Program, please contact a chaplain in your unit.