Regular Force males who serve with the Army, within the combat arms and have been deployed have a higher risk of suicide, according to the 2016 Report on Suicide Mortality in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
The report identifies that there is “strong evidence” suggesting that the CAF mission in Afghanistan played a significant impact on the mental health of individuals deployed on the mission.
However the report, released by the Surgeon General of the CAF, states:
“Still, we must reiterate here that suicide is a multifactorial event that is explained by more than deployment alone; consequently, disproportionate focus on selected factors runs counter to the CAF’s public health approach to suicide prevention. Focusing only on deployment, PTSD or any of the other risk factors discussed in this report is an ineffective approach to suicide prevention.”
The report also noted that since 2002 the rate of suicide among soldiers in combat arms is 32 per 100,000 compared with 17 for other trades.
In 2015, the crude suicide rate of Regular Force males was 24.9 per 100,000- the highest crude rate to-date, according the the report.
The report, which looked at suicide within the CAF between 1995 and 2015, also stated that care was accessed within a year prior to the suicide by 93 per cent of individuals, 76.9 per cent doing so within 30 days prior to their death.
However, it does mention that the emerging patterns, though concerning, do not suggest that the there are insufficient mental health resources in the CAF.
“In fact, data from the Mental Health Survey demonstrate that access to care in the CAF has increased dramatically since 2002 and is well above that seen in the provincial and territorial health care systems . In particular, care-seeking in CAF personnel with suicidality in 2013 was significantly higher than in CAF personnel in 2002; it was also greater than in the Canadian general population in both 2002 and in 2013 ,” read the report.
Despite the statistics, the report states the numbers are not a statistically significant increase and suicide rates are not significantly higher than the Canadian general public.
The report is something senior military and government officials are taking seriously.
“While the Canadian Armed Forces has many excellent programs and services in place to address suicide risk, we can, and must, do better. We are working towards a suicide prevention strategy that will identify areas in which to focus further effort. As Minister, taking care of our women and men in uniform is my personal priority and I remain fully committed to this obligation to Canadian Armed Forces members and their families,” said Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan.
The CAF boasts initiatives such as reducing barriers to care, the Suicide Expert Panel and monitoring scientific literature and reviewing new and emerging best practices are being employed to reduce suicide risk in the CAF.
“The health and well-being of all Canadian Armed Forces members and their families is my highest priority. I am confident that the Surgeon General will put in place extensive suicide-prevention programs supported by highly capable and compassionate personnel. That said, one suicide is one too many,” stated Gen. Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, in a statement.