Understanding the lines of effort

Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy
Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada

LoE1: Communicating, Engaging & Educating

Effective communication and proactive engagement with CAF members, Veterans, community groups, stakeholders and media, among others, are critical to improving mental health literacy and eliminating stigma that may prevent people from seeking care. The CAF will promote improved communications and outreach to maximise the benefit of programs such as the “You are Not Alone” program and ensures that the range of available mental health resources is well understood. Engaging Veterans’ associations and stakeholder groups in a peer-to-peer support role with those who have left the service will provide support to the new Veteran from one who has “walked the walk” into life after service. Education of family members through the Veteran-specific Mental Health First Aid training will also help families better understand and support the Veteran with mental health issues. Coordinated communications, both internal and external to CAF and VAC, will ensure consistency in our message. Continued proactive engagement with the media will help create a more accurate understanding of mental health issues and encourage balanced, responsible reporting, which may help to prevent suicide contagion.

LoE2: Building & Supporting Resilient CAF members & Veterans

Resilience permits an individual to maintain or “bounce back” to previous levels of well-being in the face of adversity, significant stress, threats, trauma, or tragedy. CAF members will encounter adversity and experience extraordinary demands due to the nature of their work. Resilience training will help CAF members better manage stress. The incorporation of resilience considerations in the selection of personnel is a building block of a resilient force. Through programs such as Mission Ready, Sentinel, and the Road to Mental Readiness, the CAF will equip members with practical skills to meet the demands of military life. The CAF and VAC will ensure leaders, caregivers, front-line staff and all those who are involved in the care of our people have the knowledge, resources and tools to monitor and attend to the well-being of members and Veterans. In particular, VAC will work to identify and assist Veterans at risk or in crisis, including those who are homeless, involved in the criminal justice system or experiencing mental health issues.

LoE3: Connecting & Strengthening CAF members & Veterans through Families and Community

The feelings we derive from healthy relationships and social connections can improve well-being and help protect against suicide. In this spirit, the CAF and VAC, in partnership with community groups, will continue to build well-being supports for CAF members and Veterans. Through programs such as the Road to Mental Readiness for Families, the CAF will strive to support and enable members and their families to effectively manage the demands of a military lifestyle, and to address any mental health issues they may experience. In cooperation with Military Family Resource Centres, the CAF will continue to provide services tailored to our military families and foster strong, connected military communities across the country. VAC will continue to support the well-being of Veterans and their families by creating new initiatives and partnerships. The VAC Assistance Service will continue to provide Veterans and their families 24/7 confidential access to mental health professionals, and up to 20 sessions of counselling free of charge. The Veteran Family Program will continue to provide services that address concerns and challenges related to employment, finances, housing and social supports. 

LoE4: Providing Timely Access to Effective Health Care & Support

Most people who die by suicide were living with a mental illness. Therefore, a comprehensive health care system, mental health programs and suicide prevention programs are essential. The focus of effort going forward is on ensuring timely and appropriate access to expert care providers regardless of a member’s language of choice or their geographic location. Investment in research and training of clinicians will help to integrate cutting-edge practices and treatments, ensuring our members continue to receive the highest quality care. For ill and injured members transitioning to post-military life, a seamless hand-over to VAC Case Managers and to civilian health care providers is required. VAC will continue to work with provincial/territorial health care systems, the Operational Stress Injury Clinic Network, and community-based health care providers to improve Veterans’ access to primary care, mental health services and other specialist care. The use of telemental health technology by OSI Clinic psychiatrists and psychologists will enable rapid and convenient mental health care for Veterans in remote areas.

LoE5: Well-being of CAF members through their Transition to Civilian Life

Military-civilian transition is a challenging time. Robust and accessible supports for CAF members and their families during their transition to civilian life can help create conditions for their success after service. The CAF and VAC will work to promote a seamless transition process that minimises stress on all CAF members and their families during the transition period. Health promotion, such as Strengthening the Forces, and CAF education seminars will be maintained to help departing members prepare and plan for life after service. VAC initiatives will continue to promote Veteran well-being, including meaningful employment, financial stability, strong family and community ties and access to care. Information from the Road to Civilian Life study will help us understand the challenges of transition to the civilian world and improve support to Veterans. Joint CAF-VAC programs can straddle the divide and provide an important safety net to those in transition. In partnership, the CAF and VAC continue to take steps to reduce the complexity of the transition process, including the creation of the CFTG, with an aim of reducing the stress CAF members and Veterans may experience in their transition to civilian life. CAF and VAC will also work collaboratively to improve mental health screening, referral processes for high-risk clients and improve case management.

LoE6: Protocols, Policies, and Processes to Better Manage Risk & Stress

The CAF will undertake a systematic review of policies, personnel processes, disciplinary and investigative procedures, and both CAF and VAC will review case management protocols that may affect mental health and the risk of suicide. This will help us identify areas for improvement. For VAC, this will involve the horizontal integration of programs across the many divisions and departments in our organization, with the ultimate goal of improving communication, understanding and collaboration for the benefit of the Veterans we serve. This LoE will also ensure that operating procedures in areas of CAF personnel management, CAF casualty management, and CAF and VAC case management are uniformly understood and implemented.

LoE7: Continuously Improve Through Research, Analysis and Incorporation of Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Ongoing research and evaluation are essential to ensuring that our approach to mental health and suicide prevention is effective. Through coordinated research programs, such as the Road to Civilian Life study, we will better understand factors associated with mental health outcomes and suicidal behaviors, including risks and barriers to care experienced by CAF members and Veterans. As well, further study will assist in assessing the effectiveness of clinical interventions, training and education, and other supports and services. Research findings, along with lessons learned and leading practices will provide valuable insights into how to select, train and employ members in the CAF and support Veterans after military service. In this pursuit, CAF and VAC will engage with academia, experts and Government of Canada partners such as Statistics Canada, to ensure approaches and initiatives are informed by the best available evidence and analysis.

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