Taking action: Canadian Armed Forces

Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy
Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada

Major actions taken to date

A complete list of CAF actions, organized by Lines of Effort, is available online.

In 2017, the government of Canada published Strong, Secure, Engaged, which charts the long-term course for Canada’s military covering everything from evolving threats in the global context to establishing enhanced stable funding for our military. The first of four major policy priorities featured in Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) is Well-Supported, Diverse, Resilient People and Families. CAF actions to prevent suicide are in line with this overall core commitment to our people.

Strong, Secure, Engaged (p. 12) describes this policy priority clearly: “We will favour a more comprehensive approach to care – known as “Total Health and Wellness” – and will consider psychosocial well-being in the workplace, the physical environment, and the personal health of members (including physical, mental, spiritual, and familial)” and commits $198.2M for a new Total Health and Wellness Strategy.

CAF’s Total Health and Wellness approach (further elaborated in SSE, pages 25-26) targets all aspects of health and wellness, including:

Understanding: The CAF is investing significantly in developing a better understanding of suicidality, which will drive continuous program improvement. Collaboration with our NATO partners to share information and successes is ongoing. The expert panels on suicide prevention and the Medical Professional Technical Suicide Reviews conducted by CAF Health Services provide examples of direct action we are taking to increase our understanding of suicidality.

CAF is also directing research toward the development and maintenance of well-being and resilience in our personnel. This has already produced a number of successful programs including the Road to Mental Readiness, Mission Ready, and Spiritual Resilience. The Unit Morale Profile research provides a wealth of information on the morale and well-being factors affecting our soldiers, sailors and airwomen and airmen.

Caring For and Supporting: The CAF has many initiatives and programs in place to support our members. Most notable among them is the world-class health care provided by Health Services, which includes establishment of the CAF Mental Health Centre of Excellence. The CAF also provides Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness Training and provides specific guidance related to mental health and suicidality in the CDS Guidance to Commanding Officers and their Leadership Teams handbook.

The Strengthening the Forces Program provides a number of initiatives designed to build stronger, resilient CAF members and the Soldier On program supports serving members and Veterans to overcome their physical or mental health illness or injuries. Military families are an integral part of our member’s well-being and the Military Family Resource Centres have numerous programs designed to support them, both in health and in times of illness or crisis. Strong, Secure, Engaged includes a $144.8M commitment to support Military Family Resource Centres.

Building and Resourcing: The CAF is dedicated to improving and has continued to evolve its structure, programs and policies to provide the best support possible to its members. To that end the Forces have undertaken a wide-ranging review of all of its personnel related policies in order to identify and eliminate administrative processes that do not add value and unnecessary friction points for our personnel. Recognizing the stresses and risks that transition poses to its members, the CAF has partnered with VAC to create a Seamless Transition Task Force. The CAF is also in the process of creating a CAF Transition Group that will manage all aspects of transition.

Health Services continues to improve its care and is hiring additional dedicated health care experts in mental health and suicide prevention to enhance its capacity. Morale and Welfare Services likewise continues to improve its support to CAF members and their families, which will be expanded to include the Veteran Family Program. The Chaplain General is in the process of developing both a Spiritual Resilience program and a peer support network called Sentinel. All of these new initiatives, and many others, are supported by the 2017 Strong, Secure, Engaged: Defense Policy which will direct our actions and provide the rationale for the resources to effectively meet the needs of our members.

Joint Action: The Seamless Transition Task Force

This is a joint CAF and VAC strategy, and one of the most important areas for collaboration between the two organizations is the transition of CAF members into post-service life (as reflected in Line of Effort 5, which focuses on transition support). The transition is a critical time when CAF members face unique challenges and rely more heavily on support from both CAF and VAC. Successful military-civilian transition relates to policy and services that promote total health and wellness, some of which include: employment, finances, physical, spiritual and mental health, social engagement, community resources, permanent housing and personal psychological preparedness.

For this reason CAF and VAC have established a joint Seamless Transition Task Force. The Task Force is designed to ensure a coordinated approach and oversight of all key elements of CAF-VAC initiatives to close the seam between the two organizations. The Task Force develops and leads the implementation of a new member/Veteran-centric transition model that addresses the needs of releasing CAF personnel with a focus on health and well-being, which will aid in the successful transition to post-service life.

The Seamless Transition Task Force is co-chaired by CAF and VAC staff, overseeing four implementation teams responsible for Seamless Transition, Case Management, Medical Oversight, and ID Card.

Many of the specific actions undertaken or overseen by the Task Force are featured in this document in both the CAF and VAC sections under Line of Effort 5.

The most critical of these initiatives is the stand-up of the CAF TG. This Transition Group will take on the oversight of the transition and release portfolios, while prioritizing its care of our ill and injured posted to JPSU units across the country, as they are prepared to return to duty or release from the military to become Veterans. VAC will work closely with CAF and will have embedded personnel in the JPSUs to support this seamless transition. The overarching shared responsibility of the transition experience is an example of the two organizations working more closely than ever in the service of a shared vision.

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