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HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Report of the 2016 Mental Health Expert Panel on suicide prevention in the Canadian Armed Forces

April, 2018
Article:

This article reviews evidence and best practices for suicide prevention in civilian and military populations, as discussed in an expert panel convened for suicide prevention.

Abstract

An Expert Panel on suicide prevention convened October 23–26, 2016 to review current practices and recommend suicide prevention strategies for the Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS). It included subject matter experts from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and representatives from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). We reviewed evidence and best practices for suicide prevention in civilian and military populations as well as the components of the CFHS mental health services and suicide prevention programs, and compared them to current evidence-informed best practices. We suggested improvements for CFHS mental health services and suicide prevention programs, and areas of future inquiry to improve suicide prevention. Over the past 10 years there have been an average 16.6 suicide deaths annually among Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) regular force and primary reserves combined. Available mental health services for serving military personnel with suicidal behaviour exceed that for the Canadian civilian population. We identified many factors associated with suicidal behaviour, but acknowledged that it is extremely difficult to predict at an individual level. We agreed that the goal is to have no suicides in the CAF regular force population, but that not all suicides are preventable. We made 11 suggestions to improve suicide prevention in the CFHS. The CFHS provides the highest quality mental health care for military personnel. Our recommendations are based on state-of-the-art research evidence, and their implementation will ensure that the CFHS leads the way in providing outstanding care for military personnel dealing with suicidal behaviour.

Full Reference

Sareen, J., Holens, P., Turner, S., Jetly, R., Kennedy, S., Heisel, M., Cooper, K., Mota, N., Comtois, K., Stein, M. B., Schaffer, A., Thompson, J. and Heber, A., 2018. Report of the 2016 Mental Health Expert Panel on suicide prevention in the Canadian Armed Forces. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 4(1).

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