Our vision

Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy
Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada

A community of resilient, productive and confident Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans that is supported through robust initiatives and programs to promote well-being, and prevent self-harm and suicide.

Our mission

Prevent suicide and self-harm of Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans by understanding, addressing, and mitigating the risks of suicide across the entire military and Veteran community.

Lines of effort

Our Strategy organizes our actions based on seven major Lines of Effort (LoE):

  1. Communicating, Engaging & Educating
  2. Building & Supporting Resilient CAF members & Veterans
  3. Connecting & Strengthening CAF members & Veterans through Families and Community
  4. Providing Timely Access to Effective Health Care & Support
  5. Promoting Well-being of CAF members through their Transition to Civilian Life
  6. Aligning Protocols, Policies, and Processes to Better Manage Risk & Stress
  7. Continuously Improve Through Research, Analysis and Incorporation of Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Shared Strategy, Unique Actions

A joint strategy between CAF and VAC is crucial for success in meeting suicide prevention goals. The two organizations, and the communities they care for, are inextricably linked. This connection is a reflection of Canada’s lifelong commitment to the people who serve in our armed forces. CAF-VAC coordination is especially important in the area of suicide prevention because the transition between release from the Canadian Armed Forces and becoming a Veteran can be a particularly vulnerable and stressful time for some members. The CAF builds in its members a robust military identity. Finding a new post-service identity, along with navigating a host of other changes and challenges, can be very difficult for some. For this reason CAF and VAC have established a Seamless Transition Task Force, to see that members receive the support they need during the transition period to post-service life. The Task Force has already resulted in the creation of the CAF Transition Group (CAF TG) supported by VAC personnel, which will ensure our members are provided with the resources and assistance they need to transition seamlessly to post-military life.

At the same time, the CAF and VAC organizations, communities, and legislative mandates differ significantly. This is why the two organizations have developed unique action plans, linked by shared strategic objectives.

Our principles

Our actions in each Line of Effort are guided by a set of core principles shared by the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada.

  • Engaged and enabled leadership that know and demonstrate concern for CAF members’ and Veterans’ well-being, and work to create strong support networks, is critical to success.
  • Good mental health and well-being is critical to suicide prevention.
  • Unlimited Liability of military service implies a social contract between CAF members and Veterans, and the Government of Canada.
  • Suicide prevention will be integrated with other strategic efforts.
  • A sense of belonging and a sense of purpose protect against suicide.
  • A holistic approach is essential to suicide prevention.
  • Resilient CAF members make resilient Veterans.
  • Morale and welfare is considered in all aspects of training, employment and transition systems.
  • Suicide prevention is a shared responsibility of individuals, health care providers, colleagues, leaders, all levels of government and the Canadian community.
  • The well-being of the family is key to the well-being of CAF members and Veterans.

“ I have been struggling lately and I have been so hard on myself. I stated I feel like I am slipping back down that steep and rocky hill I have been climbing. Reality is that I am living life outside of those shadows for the first time and it is scary. I know I am battling fatigue, but I am now trying to feel and process things in a light I have never been in before. No wonder I feel overwhelmed, so much of this is new to me.
“Sharing my experiences with a trusted and kind person such as yourself has released me from so much pain. Opening those containers that were purposely and forcefully kept shut has freed me. To try and explain just how this feels is a monumental task. I only trusted a handful of people prior to working with you, and none of them knew wholly what I had been through or what I was going through. To trust seemed like an impossible task, you let me come in and feel comfortable. You invited me to look at situations from a different perspective and slowly I could let go of the various chains I have been carrying for so long.”

Excerpted, with permission, from a letter to an Operational Stress Injury clinic therapist

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