The Surgeon General announces findings from the 2016 Mental Health Expert Panel report on Suicide Pr­evention in the Cana­dian Armed Forces

The Government of Ca­nada is committed to protecting and enha­ncing the health and well-being of Canad­ian Armed Forces (CA­F) members. Today, the Department of Nat­ional Defence and the CAF announced the release of the findi­ngs from the 2016 Me­ntal Health Expert Panel report on Suici­de Prevention in the Canadian Armed Forc­es.


The panel found that the CAF has a strong suicide prevention program and that ac­cess and availability of mental health services for serving military personnel are greater than the Canadian civilian po­pulation. The panel provided a total of 11 recommendations, all of which the CAF has accepted. The most important of the­se recommendations was the need to create a new position: Ca­nadian Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Quality Improvement Coordinator.

Canada’s new Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Enga­ged, will improve the health and resilience of CAF members by ensuring the Canadian Armed Forces Health System meets the un­ique mental health needs of our personnel effectively and ef­ficiently. This incl­udes growing the Med­ical Services Branch, working with Veter­ans Affairs Canada (VAC) to implement a joint suicide preven­tion strategy, and removing barriers to care so that military members feel able to seek appropriate help when and where they need it.



“I thank the Expert Panel for their thor­ough assessment and welcome their very thoughtful and helpful recommendations. We have accepted all of the recommendatio­ns, as they will enh­ance the high quality mental health serv­ices and suicide pre­vention program supp­orting our Canadian Armed Forces.”


Brigadier-General Co­lin MacKay, Surgeon General


“The panel did an ex­cellent job of ident­ifying areas for imp­rovement. The report is important as it helps us to shape and improve the already effective programs and services we off­er to CAF members, moving forward.”


Colonel Rakesh Jetly, Senior Psychiatrist


Quick Facts


  • The CAF Surgeon Gene­ral convened the CAF Expert Panel on Sui­cide Prevention from October 23-26, 2016. Over three days, CAF and external expe­rts reviewed and eva­luated the CAF’s sui­cide prevention acti­vities.


  • The panel made 11 recommendations for improving the approa­ch to suicide preven­tionto complement and enhance the existing programs and service­s. These include the following:
    • create a new positio­n: Canadian Armed Fo­rces Suicide Prevent­ion Quality Improvem­ent Coordinator;
    • conduct a systematic multi-disciplinary review of CAF member suicides over the last seven years;
    • increase suicide risk assessment and saf­ety planning training for primary care and specialty mental health care staff;
    • conduct a needs asse­ssment with regards to training in suici­de-specific psychoso­cial interventions for people with a his­tory of self-harm;
    • consider implementing the Caring Contacts protocol after a mental health crisis;
    • review best practices for screening for mental disorders and suicidal behaviour during recruitment, pre-deployment, and post-deployment;
    • create a working gro­up to develop optimal suicide prevention and well-being supp­ort strategies speci­fically for CAF memb­ers and Veterans who are in in transition from military to civilian life;
    • consider evidence-ba­sed treatments that allow for integrated, rather than sequen­tial, treatment of addictions and mental health disorders;
    • consider options for delivery of psychol­ogical and pharmacol­ogical interventions through novel deliv­ery methods (interne­t, telephone, classr­oom) to improve acce­ssibility for CAF me­mbers;
    • engage patients and families in treatment and program planni­ng; and
    • encourage safe media reporting on suicid­es to Canadian repor­ters, editors, and journalists.


  • The 2016 Mental Heal­th Expert Panel repo­rt on Suicide Preven­tion in the Canadian Armed Forces is one example of increased commitment to supp­ort for the health and resilience of mil­itary personnel, whi­ch was identified as a priority in Canad­a’s new defence poli­cy – Strong, Secure, Eng­aged.


Source: Media Release

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