All posts tagged suicide

Mental health care in Forces: Let’s clear a few trees to see forest

Sean Bruyea

When it comes to mental health and suicides in the military, the Canadian Armed Forces can do much to come clean and diminish the self-serving rhetoric.

Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson claims the public focus on military suicides could be aggravating the crisis in having “brought a slight honour to the act of suicide.” This unfortunate attempt to closet away debate on an extremely serious issue has little basis in scientific research. The ‘suicide contagion’ effect has been validated amongst hyper-connected and highly self-conscious teens, with the greatest vulnerability amongst 12 to 13-year-olds. There is scant basis to believe that mature professional adults in the military may be subject to this contagion.

Even with unprecedented public attention on the issue, the military still drags its heels in both hiring sufficient mental health-care staff as well as completing outstanding suicide investigations. Nevertheless, the CAF’s director of mental health, Scott McLeod claims “no other organization in Canada, and probably the world, has got a program that intensive to learn from these suicides.”

One month later in January 2014, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson announced that the military was finally going to clear a backlog of 50 uncompleted suicide investigations.

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Military suicides: platitudes and rhetoric not enough

Sean Bruyea

The recent spate of suicides by serving and retired Canadian Armed Forces members is indescribably tragic. If we truly wish to live up to our claims as a civilized and compassionate nation, then we have the highest moral obligation to ask tough questions and risk being profoundly changed by the answers.

First, we must remember and honour the most recent four victims of apparent suicide: Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast, Corporal William Elliot, Master Warrant Officer Michael McNeil and Corporal Sylvain Lelièvre. They are casualties of combat and military service. We can only imagine but we must understand the degree of darkness they endured to make such a difficult decision. The official government understanding is less than helpful.

The DND hierarchy after each suicide marches out the platitudes and rhetoric. DND claims Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel have a lower suicide rate than the civilian population or that of the U.S. military. Such cold comfort allows the largest of Canada’s federal departments to sit on its hands, avoiding the deep critical thinking needed to make important changes. In fact, such statistical claims have often been massaged to show a seemingly benign picture of death. For five-year periods, the CF average has been steady at about 19 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, same or slightly more than the civilian population rate of 18 per 100,000 for males (the military is still overwhelmingly male) and approximately 20 per 100,000 for the American military.… Read the rest