The Report of the 2016 Mental Health Expert Panel on Suicide Prevention in the Canadian Armed Forces has just been released. This is when a Panel of experts in Suicide Prevention gathered together to interpret data from various sources to review current practices and make recommendations regarding the Canadian Forces suicide prevention strategies.
Here are some findings of their reports and findings from data these experts used for their Report...
1. Women veterans deaths by suicide are higher than male veterans
A 2010 data linkage found that, compare to the general population, death by suicide was…
2. Over their lifetime, military women think, plan and attempt suicide more than military men
The 2016 Trends in suicidal behaviour and use of mental health services in Canadian military and civilian populations stated that ‘’when comparing military personnel only, women lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation did decreased significantly over the 10-year period.’’ However, even after a significant decrease, the same table shows that the women suicidal ideation, plan and attempt are still much higher than the men:
3. Over a year time-frame, military women think, plan and attempt suicide as much as men
The table Past-year prevalence of suicidal behaviour among Canadian military personnel and civilians, 2002–2012/13 found in the 2016 Trends in suicidal behaviour and use of mental health services in Canadian military and civilian populations indicates that, in 2013, military suicidal ideation rates for men and women were virtually identical (4.3%).
4. Yet, despite all these previous data, the 2017 Suicide prevention in the Canadian Armed Forces paper chose to exclude military women from their research.
What was the reason given in the 2017 Suicide prevention in the Canadian Armed Forces to exclude military female stats from the suicide prevention report? “Regular Force female suicide numbers tend to be too small to be statistically analyzed with any degree of accuracy’’.
What was the reason given to not pay attention to the much higher rate of female suicide ideation, plan and attempts? “The number of reported attempts cannot be used as statistical rates of attempted suicide.”
What was the reason given to not pay attention to the much higher rate of female veteran’s suicide? None. I am guessing they choose, conveniently, to only focus on the one element were men soldiers are at higher risk: suicide while serving in the CAF.
5. Of course, none of the research used by the Expert panel looked into Military Sexual trauma…
In fact, they looked at pretty much everything except military sexual trauma. Here is what the Expert panel was looked into:
Deployments, combat exposures, peacekeeping operations, stigma, child abuse, physical health, access to care, incarcerated veterans, resilience, household income, mental disorders, mental illness, psychiatric illness (borderline personality disorder, Narcissistic personality, Anxiety and depression, posttraumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders), exposure to a suicide, regions with high suicide rates, first nations, school suicide prevention for youth, psychiatric hospitalization, substance abuse (opioid overdose, cocaine dependence), Families, late-life suicidality, work reintegration, mild traumatic brain injury, in-theater care prior to deployment, physical disorders, pharmacological treatments , self-confidence and easy access to weapons.
Sceptical? Look at the 78 references (they are listed in the last page of the Report).
6. Conclusions of the panel?
So after the Expert panel read that…
7. Recommendations of the Expert Panel?
In their Report Annex A: Questions to Consider when Conducting a Systematic Review of Canadian Armed Forces Suicides the Expert panel does not suggest to include gender consideration or ask questions about Military sexual trauma or workplace harassment in the future.
Never underestimate the power of denial.
*On a positive note: Out of the 15 panel members, seven were women (good job diversity!).
Here are my findings!
In the absence of data on care for Military Sexual Trauma in the Canadian Armed Forces, I made some non-scientific inquiries of my own. I ask questions to 71 Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma from the CAF from my group. Here are the results...
Here are my questions...
Here is my conclusion
The good new is that there are lessons to be learned from this Report. This Report would be a amazing case study in...let's say... a new mandate to review the CFHS focus and medical reporting norms and to dress a specific action plan on how to integrate GBA+ and Op Honour recruiting goals within the CFHS. Just food for thought here.
Clearly more needs to be done to support specifically women's health issues and to help retaining women.
To avoid these ''Faux pas'' in the future, may I suggest the following?