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There were 16 suicides among regular force males and another three suicides among reservists though some deaths remain under investigation, said Brig.-Gen. Jean-Robert Bernier, surgeon general for the Canadian Armed Forces. There were no suicides among female regular force members in 2014.
Bernier said the increase in deaths was not unexpected because the Forces has seen a “significant” increase in the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as a higher rate of depression among military members.
Still, Bernier said that the suicide rate in the military is below the civilian suicide rate, though some branches, like the army, do have a higher rate “because they have a higher rate of exposure to combat.”
However, he said he was hopeful that new attitudes within the Forces to encourage troops to seek help combined with investment in mental health is having an effect and should help prevent future suicides.
“We’ve achieved a lot but we can still do better,” Bernier told the Star.
Harper replied that while he didn’t know the details of the Tait case, he extended condolences to the family and highlighted measures taken by the military such as opening new operational stress injury clinics.
But he said getting help was the “most courageous” thing he’s done in his 30-year career, which has included deployments Bosnia, Haiti and Afghanistan.
“The big thing here is to get help and get help quickly,” Pickard said during a panel discussion.
Bernier said there has been a “drastic” change in recent years as the Armed Forces has dramatically boosted its spending and resources to assist personnel with mental health problems.
But he said the biggest stumbling block is often “self-imposed self-stigma” that makes personnel reluctant to seek assistance.