This afternoon the Department of National Defence released the 2019 Surgeon General Report on Suicide Mortality in the Canadian Armed Forces.
The 2019 report is an update covering the period from 1995 to 2018.
The press release noted, “between 1995 and 2018 there were no statistically significant increases in the overall suicide rates. The number of Regular Force males that died by suicide is consistent with the male suicide rates in the Canadian General Population (CGP), and there is no evidence for a link between deployment and risk for suicide.”
According to the information collected, from 1995 to 2017, the risk of suicide among Regular Force males who had deployed on any CAF mission was not statistically different from that of Regular Force males with no history of deployment on any CAF mission.
The report did state the suicide rate in Regular Force males serving in the Canadian Army was higher than those serving with other commands.
“Within the Canadian Army, members who served in combat arms occupations (i.e., infantry, armour, artillery, and combat engineers) were at higher risk of suicide than those who served in non-combat arms,” noted the report.
The annual report is one part of the CAF’s broad suicide prevention efforts described in the Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy between the organization and Veterans Affairs.
“The Canadian Armed Forces understand that each suicide is a complex and tragic event that has serious repercussions on families, friends, colleagues and clinicians. We have high quality programs and services in place, and we continually strive to make improvements where we can. We also continue our work on stigma reduction and other barriers to care, encouraging people to seek help when they need it,” said Major-General Andrew Downes, Surgeon General.
The press release noted there was not a detailed analysis of suicide trends for females in the CAF due to the lack of suicide trends. From 2015 to 2018, two Regular Force and one Reserve Force females died by suicide.
High prevalence of failing relationships [including spousal/intimate (58.3%) and other (50.0%)] and non-suicide family and/or friend deaths (58.3%) suggest these may be indicators of heightened suicide risk in CAF Regular Force males. According to the report.
The report stated, “over the past 17 years, there were 118 deaths by suicide among the Regular Force males within the Army command and 83 within the other environmental commands combined (Navy, Air Force and Other).
“The crude Army suicide rate was 33.60 per 100,000 population (95% CI: 27.45, 41. 05) compared to 13.14 (95% CI: 11.01, 17.13) for the non-Army rate. The confidence intervals for the rate in each environmental command did not overlap indicating that there was a statistically significant difference between the two groups.”
The report concluded with the following four points:
- From 1995 to 2018, there has been no statistically significant change in the overall suicide rate of CAF Regular Force males.
- The rate of suicide when standardized for age and sex is not significantly different from that of the CGP.
- High prevalence of failing relationships [including spousal/intimate (58.3%) and other (50.0%)] and non-suicide family and/or friend deaths (58.3%) suggest these may be indicators of heightened suicide risk in CAF Regular Force males.
- Analyses suggest that there is a significantly higher crude rate of suicide in Regular Force males in the Army command relative to other CAF environmental commands. This may be driven in part by the significant difference in the crude Regular Force male suicide rate for the combat arms trades relative to the non-combat arms suicide rate.
The press release noted, “findings from this report will advance the department’s knowledge of this issue by helping to refine our understanding of the factors influencing suicide in the CAF and identifying potential new trends. The report will also assist DND in continuing to make evidence-based decisions about its programs and investments in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) health care system.”
The Surgeon General Report on Suicide Mortality in the CAF has been released annually since 2008. the report provides information on suicide in the actively serving CAF population.
“Even one loss of a CAF member to suicide is too many and is felt by the entire Defence Team. Though there are no simple solutions, we need to continually evaluate and improve our efforts to help our women and men in uniform. We will not stop our work promoting mental health services, reducing the stigma associated with seeking help and increasing outreach to our members so that each and every Canadian Armed Forces member has the support they need. We are there for you,” stated Harjit S. Sajjan, minister of defence in the press release.